Skip to main content

Full text of "The theory of the theatre, and other principles of dramatic criticism"

See other formats




THE THEORY OF 
THE THEATRE 



CLAYTON HAMILTON 



^i 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 

GIFT OF 

Kate Gordon Moore 



THE THEORY OF 
THE THEATRE 



AND OTHER PRINCIPLES OF 
DRAMATIC CRITICISM 



BY 

CLAYTON HAMILTON 

AUTHOR OF "MATEHIAL3 AND METHODS OF FICTION 




NEW YORK 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 

1913 



Copyright, 1910 

BY 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 
Published April, 1910 



/63I 



TO 
BRANDER MATTHEWS 

MENTOR AND FRIEND 

WHO FIRST AWAKENED MY CRITICAL INTEREST 

IN THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 



81G1 ; 1 



PREFACE 

Most of the chapters which make up the pres- 
ent volume have already appeared, in earlier 
versions, in certain magazines ; and to the editors of 
The Forum, The North American Review, The 
Smart Set, and The Bookman, I am indebted for 
permission to republish such materials as I have 
culled from my contributions to their pages. 
Though these papers were written at different times 
and for different immediate circles of subscribers, 
they were all designed from the outset to illustrate 
certain steady central principles of dramatic criti- 
cism ; and, thus collected, they afford, I think, a 
consistent exposition of the most important points 
in the theory of the theatre. The introductory 
chapter, entitled What is a Play?, has not, in any 
form, appeared in print before; and all the other 
papers have been diligently revised, and in many 
passages entirely rewritten. 

C. H. 
New Yoek City: 1910. 



CONTENTS 



THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. What is a Plat? 3 

II. The Psychology of Theatre Attdiences . . 30 

III. The Actoe akd the Dramatist 59 

IV. Stage Conventions in Modern Times ... 73 
V. Economy of Attention in Theatrical Per- 
formances 95 

VI. Emphasis in the Drama 112 

VII. The Four Leading Types of Drama .... 127 

VIII. The Modern Social Drama 133 

OTHER PRINCIPLES OF DRAMATIC 
CRITICISM 

I. The Public and the Dramatist 153 

IL Dramatic Art and the Theatre Business . 161 

in. The Happy Ending in the Theatre . . . 169 

IV. The Boundaries of Approbation 175 

V. Imitation and Suggestion in the Drama . . 179 

VI. Holding the Mirror up to Nature .... 184 

VII. Blank Vf.rse on the Contemporary Stage . 193 

VIII. Dramatic Literature AND Theatric Journalism 199 

IX. The Intention of Permanence 207 

X. The Quality of New Endeavor 212 

XL The Effect of Plays Upon the Public . . 217 

Xn. Pleasant and Unpleasant Plays .... 222 

Xin. Themes in the Theatre 228 

XIV. The Function of Imagination 233 

Index 241 



THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 



THE 
THEORY OF THE THEATRE 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 

A PLAY is a story devised to be presented by 
actors on a stage before an audience. 

This plain statement of fact affords an exceed- 
ingly simple definition of the drama, — a definition 
so simple indeed as to seem at the first glance easily 
obvious and therefore scarcely Avorthy of expres- 
sion. But if we examine the statement thoroughly, 
phrase by phrase, we shall see that it sums up 
within itself the entire theory of the theatre, and 
that from this primary axiom we may deduce the 
whole practical philosophy of dramatic criticism. 

It is unnecessary to linger long over an explana- 
tion of the word " story." A story is a repre- 
sentation of a series of events linked together by 
the law of cause and effect and marching forward 
toward a predestined culmination, — each event ex- 
hibiting imagined characters performing imagined 
acts in an appropriate imagined setting. This 

S 



4 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

definition applies, of course, to the epic, the bal- 
lad, the novel, the short-story, and all other forms 
of narrative art, as well as to the drama. 
s/ But the phrase " devised to be presented " dis- 
tinguishes the drama sharply from all other forms 
of narrative. In particular it must be noted that 
a play is not a story that is written to be read. 
By no means must the drama be considered pri- 
marily as a department of literature, — like the 
epic or the novel, for example. Rather, from the 
standpoint of the theatre, should literature be con- 
sidered as only one of a multitude of means which 
the dramatist must employ to convey his story ef- 
fectively to the audience. The great Greek 
dramatists needed a sense of sculpture as well as 
a sense of poetry ; and in the contemporary thea- 
tre the playwright must manifest the imagination 
of the painter as well as the imagination of the 
man of letters. The appeal of a play is primarily 
visual rather than auditory. On the contemporary 
stage, characters properly costumed must be ex- 
hibited within a carefully designed and painted 
setting illuminated with appropriate effects of 
light and shadow; and the art of music is often 
called upon to render incidental aid to the general 
impression. The dramatist, therefore, must be 
endowed not only with the literary sense, but also 
with a clear eye for the graphic and plastic ele- 
ments of pictorial effect, a sense of rhythm and 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 5 

of music, and a thorough knowledge of the art of 
acting. Since the dramatist must, at the same time 
and in the same work, harness and harmonise the 
methods of so many of the arts, it would be uncrit- 
ical to centre studious consideration solely on his 
dialogue and to praise him or condemn him on the 
literary ground alone. 

It is, of course, true that the very greatest plays 
have always been great literature as well as great 
drama. The purely literary element — the final 
touch of style in dialogue — is the only sure anti- 
dote against the opium of time. Now that JEs- 
chylus is no longer performed as a playwright, we 
read him as a poet. But, on the other hand, we 
should remember that the main reason why he is no 
longer played is that his dramas do not fit the mod- 
em theatre, — an edifice totally different in size 
and shape and physical appointments from that in 
which his pieces were devised to be presented. In 
his own day he was not so much read as a poet 
as applauded in the theatre as a playwright; and 
properly to appreciate his dramatic, rather than his 
literary, appeal, we must reconstruct in our imag- 
ination the conditions of the theatre in his day. 
The point is that his plays, though planned pri- 
marily as drama, have since been shifted over, by 
many generations of critics and literary students, 
into the adjacent province of poetry ; and this shift 
of the critical point of view, which has insured the 



6 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

immortality of ^schylus, has been made possible 
only by the literary merit of his dialogue. When 
a play, owing to altered physical conditions, is 
tossed out of the theatre, it will find a haven in 
the closet only if it be greatly written. From this 
fact we may derive the practical maxim that though 
a skilful playwright need not write greatly in 
order to secure the plaudits of his own generation, 
he must cultivate a literary excellence if he wishes 
to be remembered by posterity. 

This much must be admitted concerning the ulti- 
mate importance of the literary element in the 
drama. But on the other hand it must be granted 
that many plays that stand very high as drama 
do not fall within the range of literature. A typ- 
ical example is the famous melodrama by Den- 
nery entitled The T-wo Orphans. This play has 
deservedly held the stage for nearly a century, and 
bids fair still to be applauded after the youngest 
critic has died. It is undeniably a very good play. 
It tells a thrilling story in a series of carefully 
graded theatric situations. It presents nearly a 
dozen acting parts which, though scarcely real as 
characters, are yet drawn with sufficient fidelity 
to fact to allow the performers to produce a strik- 
ing illusion of reality during the two hours* traffic 
of the stage. It is, to be sure — especially in 
the standard English translation — abominably 
written. One of the two orphans launches wide- 



WHAT IS A PLAYr 7 

eyed upon a soliloquy beginning, " Am I mad? 
. . . Do I dream? "; and such sentences as the 
following obtrude themselves upon the astounded 
ear, — " If you persist in persecuting me in this 
heartless manner, I shall inform the police." 
Nothing, surely, could be further from literature. 
Yet thrill after thrill is conveyed, by visual means, 
through situations artfully contrived; and in the 
sheer excitement of the moment, the audience is 
made incapable of noticing the pompous mediocrity 
of the hnes. 

In general, it should be frankly understood by 
students of the theatre that an audience is not capa- 
ble of hearing whether the dialogue of a play is 
well or badly written. Such a critical discrimina- 
tion would require an extraordinary nicety of ear, 
and might easily be led astray, in one direction or 
the other, by the reading of the actors. The 
rhetoric of Massinger must have sounded like 
poetry to an Elizabethan audience that had heard 
the same performers, the afternoon before, speak- 
ing lines of Shakespeare's. If Mr. Forbes-Rob- 
ertson is reading a poorly-written part, it is hard 
to hear that the lines are, in themselves, not musi- 
cal. Literary style is, even for accomplished crit- 
ics, very difficult to judge in the theatre. Some 
years ago, Mrs. Fiske presented in New Y'ork an 
English adaptation of Paul Heyse's Mary of Mag- 
dala. After the first performance — at which I 



8 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

did not happen to be present — I asked several 
cultivated people who had heard the play whether 
the English version was written in verse or in 
prose; and though these people were themselves 
actors and men of letters, not one of them could 
tell me. Yet, as appeared later, when the play 
was published, the English dialogue was written in 
blank verse by no less a poet than Mr. William 
Winter. If such an elementary distinction as that 
between verse and prose was in this case inaudible 
to cultivated ears, how much harder must it be 
for the average audience to distinguish between 
a good phrase and a bad ! The fact is that literary 
style is, for the most part, wasted on an audience. 
The average auditor is moved mainly by the emo- 
tional content of a sentence spoken on the stage, 
and pays very little attention to the form of words 
in which the meaning is set forth. At Hamlet's 
line, " Absent thee from felicity a while " — which 
Matthew Arnold, with impeccable taste, selected as 
one of his touchstones of literary style — the 
thing that really moves the audience in the theatre 
is not the perfectness of the phrase but the pathos 
of Hamlet's plea for his best friend to outlive 
him and explain his motives to a world grown 
harsh. 

That the content rather than the literary turn 
of dialogue is the thing that counts most in the 
theatre will be felt emphatically if we compare 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 9 

the mere writing of Moliere with that of his suc- 
cessor and imitator, Regnard. Mohere is certainly 
a great writer, in the sense that he expresses clearly 
and precisely the thing he has to say ; his verse, 
as well as his prose, is admirably lucid and emi- 
nently speakable. But assuredly, in the sense in 
which the word is generally used, Moliere is not a 
poet; and it ma}' fairly be said that, in the usual 
connotation of the term, he has no style. Reg- 
nard, on the other hand, is more nearly a poet, and, 
from the standpoint of style, writes vastly better 
verse. He has a lilting fluency that flowers every 
now and then into a plirase of golden melody. Yet 
Moliere is so immcasural^ly his superior as a play- 
wright that most critics instinctively set Regnard 
far below him even as a writer. There can be no 
question that M. Rostand writes better verse than 
Emile Augier; but there can be no question, also, 
that Augier is the greater dramatist. Oscar Wilde 
probably wrote more clever and witty lines than 
any other author in the whole history of English 
comedy ; but no one would think of setting him in 
the class with Congreve and Sheridan. 

It is by no means my intention to suggest that 
great writing is not desirable in the drama; but 
the point must be emphasised that it is not a nec- 
essary element in the immediate merit of a play ajr 
a play. In fact, excellent plays have often been 
presented without the use of any words at all. 



10 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

Pantomime has, in every age, been recognised as a 
legitimate department of the drama. Only a few 
years ago, Mme. Charlotte Wiehe acted in New 
York a one-act play, entitled La Main, which held 
the attention enthralled for forty-five minutes dur- 
ing which no word was spoken. The little piece 
told a thrilling story with entire clearness and 
coherence, and exhibited three characters fully and 
distinctly drawn; and it secured this achievement 
by visual means alone, with no recourse whatever 
to the spoken word. Here was a work which by 
no stretch of terminology could have been included 
In the category of literature ; and yet it was a very 
good play, and as drama was far superior to many 
a literary masterpiece in dialogue like Browning's 
In a Balcony. 

Lest this instance seem too exceptional to be 
taken as representative, let us remember that 
throughout an entire important period in the his- 
tory of the stage, it was customary for the actors 
to improvise the lines that they spoke before the 
audience. I refer to the period of the so-called 
commedia delVarte, which flourished all over Italy 
throughout the sixteenth century. A synopsis of 
the play — partly narrative and partly exposi- 
tory — was posted up behind the scenes. This 
account of what was to happen on the stage was 
known technically as a scenario. The actors con- 
sulted this scenario before they made an entrance. 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 11 

and then in the acting of the scene spoke whatever 
words occurred to them. Harlequin made love 
to Columbine and quarreled with Pantaloon in new 
lines every night; and the drama gained both 
spontaneity and freshness from the fact that it 
was created anew at each performance. Undoubt- 
edly, if an actor scored with a clever line, he would 
remember it for use in a subsequent presentation; 
and in this way the dialogue of a comedy must have 
gradually become more or less fixed and, in a sense, 
written. But this secondary task of formulating 
the dialogue was left to the performers; and the 
playwright contented himself with the primary task 
of planning the plot. 

The case of the commedia delVarte is, of course, 
extreme; but it emphasises the fact that the prob- ^y 
lem of the dramatist is less a task of writing than 
a task of constructing. His primary concern is 
so to build a story that it will tell itself to the eye 
of the audience in a series of shifting pictures. 
Any really good play can, to a great extent, be 
appreciated even though it be acted in a foreign 
language. American students in New York may 
find in the Yiddish dramas of the Bowery an em- 
phatic ilhistration of how closely a piece may be 
followed by an auditor who does not understand 
the words of a single line. The recent extraor- 
dinary development in the art of the moving pic- 
ture, especially in France, has taught us that many 



12 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

well-known plays may be presented in pantomime 
and reproduced by the kinetoscope, with no essen- 
tial loss of intelligibility through the suppression 
of the dialogue. Sardou, as represented by the 
biograph, is no longer a man of letters ; but he re- 
mains, scarcely less evidently than in the ordinary 
theatre, a skilful and effective playwright. Ham- 
let, that masterpiece of meditative poetry, would 
still be a good play if it were shown in moving pic- 
tures. Much, of course, would be sacrificed 
through the subversion of its literary element ; but 
its essential interest as a play would yet remain ap- 
parent through the unassisted power of its visual 
appeal. 

There can be no question that, however impor- 
tant may be the dialogue of a drama, the scenario 
is even more important; and from a full scenario 
alone, before a line of dialogue is written, it is 
possible in most cases to determine whether a pros- 
pective play is inherently good or bad. Most con- 
temporary dramatists, therefore, postpone the ac- 
tual writing of their dialogue until they have 
worked out their scenario in minute detail. They 
begin by separating and grouping their narrative 
materials into not more than three or four distinct 
pigeon-holes of time and place, — thereby dividing 
their story roughly into acts. They then plan a 
stage-setting for each act, employing whatever ac- 
cessories may be necessary for the action. If 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 18 

papers are to be burned, they introduce a fire- 
place; if somebody is to throw a pistol through 
a window, they set the window in a convenient and 
emphatic place; they determine how many chairs 
and tables and settees are demanded for the nar- 
rative; if a piano or a bed is needed, they place it 
here or there upon the floor-plan of their stage, 
according to the prominence they wish to give it; 
and when all such points as these have been de- 
termined, they draw a detailed map of the stage- 
setting for the act. As their next step, most play- 
wrights, with this map before them, and using a set 
of chess-men or other convenient concrete objects 
to represent their characters, move the pieces about 
upon the stage through the successive scenes, de- 
termine in detail where every character is to stand 
or sit at nearly every moment, and note down what 
he is to think and feel and talk about at the time. 
Only after the entire play has been planned out 
thus minutely does the average playwright turn 
back to the beginning and commence to write his 
dialogue. He completes his primary task of play- 
making before he begins his secondary task of 
play-writing. Many of our established drama- 
tists — like the late Clyde Fitcli, for example — 
sell their plays when the scenario is finished, ar- 
range for the production, select the actors, and 
afterwards write the dialogue with the chosen ac- 
tors constantly in mind. 



14 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

This summary statement of the usual process 
may seem, perhaps, to cast excessive emphasis on 
the constructive phase of the playwright's prob- 
lem ; and allowance must of course be made for the 
divergent mental habits of individual authors. 
But almost any playwright will tell you that he 
feels as if his task were practically finished when 
he arrives at the point when he finds himself pre- 
pared to begin the writing of his dialogue. This 
accounts for the otherwise unaccountable rapidity 
with which many of the great plays of the world 
have been written. Dumas fils retired to the coun- 
try and wrote La Dame aux Camelias — a four- 
act play — in eight successive days. But he had 
previously told the same story in a novel ; he knew 
everything that was to happen in his play; and 
the mere writing could be done in a single head- 
long dash. Voltaire's best tragedy, Zaire, was 
written in three weeks. Victor Hugo composed 
Marion Delorme between June 1 and June 24, 
1829; and when the piece was interdicted by the 
censor, he immediately turned to another subject 
and wrote Hernani in the next three weeks. The 
fourth act of Marion Delorme was written in a 
single day. Here apparently was a very fever of 
composition. But again we must remember that 
both of these plays had been devised before the au- 
thor began to write them ; and when he took his pen 
in hand he had already been working on them in 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 15 

scenario for probably a year. To write ten acts 
in Alexandrines, with feminine rhymes alternating 
with masculine, was still, to be sure, an appalling 
task; but Hugo was a facile and prolific poet, and 
could write very quickly after he had determined 
exactly what it was he had to write. 

It was with all of the foregoing points in mind 
that, in the opening sentence of this chapter, I de- 
fined a play as a story " devised," rather than a 
story " written." We may now consider the sig- 
nificance of the next phrase of that definition, 
which states that a play is devised t o be " £re- 
^ented," rather than to be " read." 

The only way in which it is possible to study 
most of the great plays of b3'gone ages is to read 
the record of their dialogue ; and this necessity has 
led to tl>c academic fallacy of considering great 
plays primarily as compositions to be read. In 
their own age, however, these very plays which we 
now read in the closet were intended primarily to 
be presented on the stage. Really to read a play 
requires a very special and difficult exercise of 
visual imagination. It is necessary not only to 
appreciate the dialogue, but also to project be- 
fore tile mind's eye a vivid imagined rendition of 
the visual aspect of the action. This is the reason 
why most managers and stage-directors are unable 
to judge conclusively the merits and defects of a 
new play from reading it in manuscript. One of 



16 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

our most subtle artists in stage-direction, Mr. 
Henry Miller, once confessed to the present writer 
that he could never decide whether a prospective 
play was good or bad until he had seen it re- 
hearsed by actors on a stage. Mr. Augustus 
Thomas's unusually successful farce entitled Mrs. 
Leffingweirs Boots was considered a failure by its 
producing managers until the very last rehearsals, 
because it depended for its finished effect on many 
intricate and rapid intermovements of the actors, 
which until the last moment were understood and 
realised only in the mind of the playwright. The 
same author's best and most successful play, The 
Witching Hour, was declined by several managers 
before it was ultimately accepted for production ; 
and the reason was, presumably, that its extraor- 
dinary merits were not manifest from a mere read- 
ing of the lines. If professional producers may 
go so far astray in their judgment of the merits of 
a manuscript, how much harder must it be for the 
layman to judge a play solely from a reading of 
the dialogue ! 

This fact should lead the professors and the 
students in our colleges to adopt a very tentative 
attitude toward judging the dramatic merits of 
the plays of other ages. Shakespeare, considered 
as a poet, is so immeasurably superior to Dryden, 
that it is difficult for the college student unfamiliar 
with the theatre to realise that the former's Antony 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 17 

and Cleopatra is, considered solely as a play, far 
inferior to the latter's dramatisation of the same 
story, entitled All for Love, or The World Well 
Lost. Shakespeare's play upon this subject fol- 
lows closely the chronolog-y of Plutarch's nan'a- 
tive, and is merely dramatised history ; but Dryden's 
play is reconstructed with a more practical sense 
of economy' and emphasis, and deserves to be re- 
garded as historical drama. Cymheline is, in many 
passages, so greatl3' written that it is hard for 
the closet-student to realise that it is a bad play, 
even when considered from the standpoint of the 
Elizabethan theatre, — whereas Othello and Mac- 
beth, for instance, are great plays, not only of their 
age but for all time. King Lear is probably a 
more sublime poem than Othello; and it is only by 
seeing the two pieces performed equally well in 
the theatre that we can appreciate by what a wide 
margin Othello is the better play. 

This practical point has been felt emphatically 
by the very greatest dramatists ; and this fact of- 
fers, of course, an explanation of the otherwise 
inexplicable negligence of such authors as Shake- 
speare and Molierc in the matter of publishing their 
plays. These supreme playwrights wanted people 
to see their pieces in the theatre rather than to read 
them In the closet. In his own lifetime, Shake- 
speare, who was very scrupulous about the jjubllc-a- 
tion of his sonnets and his narrative poems, printed 



18 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

a carefully edited text of his plays only when he 
was forced, in self-defense, to do so, by the prior 
appearance of corrupt and pirated editions; and 
we owe our present knowledge of several of his 
dramas merely to the business acumen of two ac- 
tors who, seven years after his death, conceived 
the practical idea that they might turn an easy 
penny by printing and offering for sale the text 
of several popular plays which the public had 
already seen performed. Sardou, who, like most 
French dramatists, began by publishing his plays, 
carefully withheld from print the master-efforts 
of his prime; and even such dramatists as habitu- 
ally print their plays prefer nearly always to have 
them seen first and read only afterwards. 

In elucidation of what might otherwise seem 
perversity on the part of great dramatic authors 
like Shakespeare, we must remember that the mas- 
ter-dramatists have nearly always been men of the 
theatre rather than men of letters, and therefore 
naturally more avid of immediate success with a 
contemporary audience than of posthumous success 
with a posterity of readers. Shakespeare and 
Moliere were actors and theatre-managers, and de- 
vised their plays primarily for the patrons of the 
Globe and the Palais Royal. Ibsen, who is often 
taken as a type of the literary dramatist, derived 
his early training mainly from the profession of 
the theatre and hardly at all from the profession 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 19 

of letters. For half a dozen years, during the 
formative period of his twenties, he acted as pro- 
ducing manager of the National Theatre in Ber- 
gen, and learned the tricks of his trade from stud}'- 
ing the masterpieces of contemporary drama, 
mainly of the French school. In his own work, 
he began, in such pieces as Lady Inger of Ostrat, 
by imitating and applying the formulas of Scribe 
and the earlier Sardou ; and it was only after many 
years that he marched forward to a technique en- 
tirely his own. Both Sir Arthur Wing Pinero and 
Mr. Stephen Phillips began their theatrical career 
as actors. On the other hand, men of letters who 
have written works primarily to be read have al- 
most never succeeded as dramatists. In England, 
during the nineteenth century, the following great 
poets all tried their hands at plays — Scott, 
Southey, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, 
Keats, Browning, Mrs. Browning, Matthew Ar- 
nold, Swinburne, and Tennyson — and not one of 
them produced a work of any considerable value 
from the standpoint of dramatic criticism. Ten- 
nyson, in Becket, came nearer to the mark than 
any of the others ; and it is noteworthy that, in this 
work, he had the advantage of the advice and, in 
a sense, collaboration of Sir Henry Irving. 

The familiar phrase " closet-drama " is a con- 
tradiction of terms. The species of literary com- 
position in dialogue that is ordinarily so desig- 



20 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

nated occupies a thoroughW legitimate position in 
the realm of literature, but no position whatsoever 
in the realm of dramaturgy. Atalanta in Calydon 
is a great poem ; but from the standpoint of the 
theory of the theatre, it cannot be considered as 
a play. Like the lyric poems of the same author, 
it was written to be read; and it was not devised 
to be presented by actors on a stage before an 
audience. 

We may now consider the significance of the 
three concluding phrases of the definition of a 
play which was offered at the outset of the pres- 
ent chapter. These phrases indicate the immanence 
of three influences by which the work of the play- 
wright is constantly conditioned. 

In the first place, by the fact that the dramatist 
is devising his story for the use of actors, he is 
definitely limited both in respect to the kind of 
characters he may create and in respect to the 
means he may employ in order to delineate them. 
In actual life we meet characters of two different 
classes, which (borrowing a pair of adjectives from 
the terminology of physics) we may denominate 
dynamic characters and static characters. But 
when an actor appears upon the stage, he wants to 
act; and the dramatist is therefore obliged to con- 
fine his attention to dynamic characters, and to ex- 
clude static characters almost entirely from the 
range of his creation. The essential trait of all 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 21 

dynamic characters is the preponderance within 
them of the element of will; and the persons of a 
play must therefore be people with active wills 
and emphatic intentions. When such people are 
brought into juxtaposition, there necessarily re- 
sults a clash of contending desires and purposes ; 
and by this fact we are led logically to the con- 
clusion that the proper subject-matter of the drama 
is a struggle between contrasted human wills. The 
same conclusion, as we shall notice in the next 
chapter, may be reached logically by deduction 
from the natural demands of an assembled audi- 
ence; and the subject will be discussed more fully 
during the course of our study of The Psychology 
of Theatre Audiences. At present it is sufficient for 
us to note that every great play that has ever been 
devised has presented some phase or other of this 
single, necessary theme, — a contention of indi- 
vidual human wills. An actor, moreover, is always 
more effective in scenes of emotion than in scenes 
of cold logic and calm reason ; and the dramatist, 
therefore, is obliged to select as his leading figures 
people whose acts are motivated by emotion rather 
than by intellect. Aristotle, for example, would 
make a totally uninteresting figure if he were pre- 
sented faithfully upon the stage. Who could im- 
agine Darwin as the hero of a drama? Othello, on 
the other hand, is not at all a reasonable being; 
from first to last his intellect is " perplexed in the 



22 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

extreme." His emotions are the motives for his 
acts ; and in this he may be taken as the type of a 
dramatic character. 

In the means of delineating the characters he 
has imagined, the dramatist, because he is writing 
for actors, is more narrowly restricted than the 
novelist. His people must constantly be doing 
something, and must therefore reveal themselves 
mainly through their acts. They may, of course, 
also be delineated through their way of saying 
things; but in the theatre the objective action is 
always more suggestive than the spoken word. We 
know Sherlock Holmes, in Mr. William Gillette's 
admirable melodrama, solely through the things 
that we have seen him do; and in this connection 
we should remember that in the stories by Sir 
Arthur Conan Doyle from which Mr. Gillette de- 
rived his narrative material, Holmes is delineated 
largely by a very different method, — the method, 
namely, of expository comment written from the 
point of view of Doctor Watson. A leading actor 
seldom wants to sit in his dressing-room while he 
is being talked about by the other actors on the 
stage; and therefore the method of drawing char- 
acter by comment, which is so useful for the nov- 
elist, is rarely employed by the playwright except 
in the waste moments which precede the first en- 
trance of his leading figure. The Chorus Lady, in 
Mr. James Forbes's amusing study of that name, is 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 23 

drawn chiefly through her way of saying things ; 
but though this method of delineation is sometimes 
very effective for an act or two, it can seldom be 
sustained without a faltering of interest through 
a full-grown four-act play. The novelist's expedi- 
ent of delineating character through mental analy- 
sis is of course denied the dramatist, especially in 
this modern age when the soliloquy (for reasons 
which will be noted in a subsequent chapter) is 
usually frowned upon. Sometimes, in the theatre, 
a character may be exhibited chiefly through his 
personal eff'ect upon the other people on the stage, 
and thereby indirectly on the people in the audi- 
ence. It was in this way, of course, that Manson 
was delineated in Mr. Charles Rann Kennedy's The 
Servant in the House. But the expedient is a 
dangerous one for the dramatist to use ; because it 
makes his work immediately dependent on the ac- 
tor chosen for the leading role, and may in many 
cases render his play impossible of attaining its 
full eff'ect except at the hands of a single great 
performer. In recent years an expedient long fa- 
miliar in the novel has been transferred to the 
service of the stage, — the expedient, namely, of 
suggesting the personality of a character through 
a visual presentation of his habitual environment. 
After the curtain had been raised upon the first 
act of The Music Master, and the audience had 
been given time to look about the room which was 



24, THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

represented on the stage, the main traits of the 
leading character had already been suggested be- 
fore his first appearance on the scene. The pic- 
tures and knickknacks on his mantelpiece told us, 
before we ever saw him, what manner of man he 
was. But such subtle means as this can, after all, 
be used only to reinforce the one standard method 
of conveying the sense of character in drama ; and 
this one method, owing to the conditions under 
which the playwright does his work, must always 
be the exhibition of objective acts. 

In all these general ways the work of the drama- 
tist is affected by the fact that he must devise his 
story to be presented by actors. The specific in- 
fluence exerted over the playwright by the indi- 
vidual performer is a subject too extensive to be 
covered by a mere summary consideration in the 
present context; and we shall therefore discuss it 
fully in a later chapter, entitled The Actor and the 
Dramatist. 

At present we must pass on to observe that, in 
the second place, the work of the dramatist is con- 
ditioned by the fact that he must plan his plays to 
fit the sort of theatre that stands ready to receive 
them. A fundamental and necessary relation has 
always existed between theatre-building and 
theatric art. The best plays of any period have 
been fashioned in accordance with the physical 
conditions of the best theatres of that period. 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 25 

Therefore, in order fully to appreciate such a play 
as CEdipus King, it is necessary to imagine the 
theatre of Dionysus; and in order to understand 
thoroughly the dramaturgy of Shakespeare and 
Moliere, it is necessary to reconstruct in retrospect 
the altered inn-yard and the converted tennis-court 
for which they planned their plays. It may seri- 
ously be doubted that the works of these earlier mas- 
ters gain more than they lose from being produced 
with the elaborate scenic accessories of the modern 
stage; and, on the other hand, a modem play by 
Ibsen or Pinero would lose three-fourths of its 
effect if it were acted in the Elizabethan manner, 
or produced without scenery (let us say) in the 
Roman theatre at Orange. 

Since, in all ages, the size and shape and phys- 
ical appointments of the theatre have determined 
for the playwright the form and structure of his 
plays, we may always explain the stock conventions 
of any period of the drama by referring to the 
physical aspect of the theatre in that period. Let 
us consider briefly, for purposes of illustration, 
certain obvious ways in which the art of the great 
Greek tragic dramatists was affected by the nature 
of the Attic stage. Tlie theatre of Dionysus was 
an enormous edifice can'cd out of a hillside. It 
was so large that the dramatists were obliged to 
deal only with subjects that were traditional, — 
stories which had long been familiar to the entire 



26 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

theatre-going public, including the poorer and less 
educated spectators who sat farthest from the ac- 
tors. Since most of the audience was grouped 
above the stage and at a considerable distance, the 
actors, in order not to appear dwarfed, were obliged 
to w^alk on stilted boots. A performer so accoutred 
could not move impetuously or enact a scene of 
violence; and this practical limitation is sufficient 
to account for the measured and majestic move- 
ment of Greek tragedy, and the convention that 
murders and other violent deeds must always be 
imagined off the stage and be merely recounted to 
the audience by messengers. Facial expression 
could not be seen in so large a theatre; and the 
actors therefore wore masks, conventionalised to 
represent the dominant mood of a character during 
a scene. This limitation forced the performer to 
depend for his effect mainly on his voice; and 
Greek tragedy was therefore necessarily more 
lyrical than later types of drama. 

The few points which we have briefly touched 
upon are usually explained, by academic critics, on 
literary grounds ; but it is surely more sane to ex- 
plain them on grounds of common sense, in the 
light of what we know of the conditions of the 
Attic stage. Similarly, it would be easy to show 
how Terence and Calderon, Shakespeare and 
Moliere, adapted the form of their plays to the 
form of their theatres; but enough has already 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 27 

been said to indicate the principle which underlies 
this particular phase of the theory of the theatre. 
The successive changes in the physical aspect of 
the English theatre during the last three centuries 
have all tended toward greater naturalness, inti- 
mac}', and subtlet}', in the drama itself and in the 
physical aids to its presentment. This progi*ess, 
with its constant illustration of the interdepend- 
ence of the drama and the stage, may most con- 
veniently be studied in historical review; and to 
such a review we shall devote a special chapter, en- 
titled Stage Conventions in Modern Times. 

We may now observe that, in the third place, the 
essential nature of the drama is affected greatly by 
the fact that it is destined to be set before an audi- 
ence. The dramatist must appeal at once to a 
heterogeneous multitude of people; and the full 
effect of this condition will be investigated in a 
special chapter on The Psychology of Theatre 
Audiences. In an important sense, the audience 
is a party to the play, and collaborates with the 
actors in the presentation. This fact, which re- 
mains often unappreciated by academic critics, is 
familiar to everyone who has had any practical 
association with the theatre. It is almost never pos- 
sible, even for trained dramatic critics, to tell from 
a final drcss-rchcarsal in an empty house which 
scenes of a new play arc fully effective and which 
arc not ; and the reason why, in America, new plays 



28 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

are tried out on the road is not so much to give 
the actors practice in their parts, as to determine, 
from the effect of the piece upon provincial audi- 
ences, whether it is worthy of a metropolitan 
presentation. The point is, as we shall notice in 
the next chapter, that since a play is devised 
for a crowd it cannot finally be judged by indi- 
viduals. 

The dependence of the dramatist upon his audi- 
ence may be illustrated by the history of many im- 
portant plays, which, though effective In their own 
age, have become ineffective for later generations, 
solely because they were founded on certain general 
principles of conduct in which the world has sub- 
sequently ceased to believe. From the point of 
view of its own period, The Maid's Tragedy of 
Beaumont and Fletcher is undoubtedly one of the 
very greatest of Elizabethan plays ; but it would 
be ineffective in the modern theatre, because it pre- 
supposes a principle which a contemporary audi- 
ence would not accept. It was devised for an 
audience of aristocrats in the reign of James I, 
and the dramatic struggle is founded upon the 
doctrine of the divine right of kings. Amintor, 
in the play, has suffered a profound personal in- 
jury at the hands of his sovereign ; but he cannot 
avenge this individual disgrace, because he is a sub- 
ject of the royal malefactor. The crisis and turn- 
ing-point of the entire drama is a scene in which 



WHAT IS A PLAY? 29 

Amintor, with the king at his mercy, lowers his 
sword with the words: — 

But there is 
Divinity about you, that strikes dead 
My rising passions: as you are my king, 
I fall before you, and present my sword 
To cut mine own flesh, if it be your will. 

We may imagine the applause of the courtiers of 
James Stuart, the Presumptuous ; but never since 
the Cromwellian revolution has that scene been 
really effective on the English stage. In order 
fully to appreciate a dramatic struggle, an audi- 
ence must sympathise with the motives that occa- 
sion it. 

It should now be evident, as was suggested at 
the outset, that all the leading principles of the 
theory of the theatre may be deduced logically 
from the axiom which was stated in the first sen- 
tence of this chapter; and that axiom should con- 
stantly be borne in mind as the basis of all our 
subsequent discussions. But in view of several im- 
portant points which have already come up for 
consideration, it may be profitable, before relin- 
quishing our initial question, to redefine a play 
more fully in the following terms: — 

A play is a representation, by actors, on a stage, 
before an audience, of a struggle between individ- 
ual human wills, motivated by emotion rather than 
by intellect, and expressc<l in terms of objective 
action. 



> 



II 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THEATRE AUDI- 
ENCES 



The drama is the only art, excepting oratorj 
and certain forms of music, that is designed to 
appeal to a crowd instead of to an individual. 
The lyric poet writes for himself, and for such 
selected persons here and there throughout the 
world as may be wisely sympathetic enough to un- 
derstand his musings. The essayist and the novelist 
write for a reader sitting alone in his library : 
whether ten such readers or a hundred thousand 
ultimately read a book, the writer speaks to each 
of them apart from all the others. It is the same 
with painting and with sculpture. Though a pic- 
ture or a statue may be seen by a limitless succession 
of observers, its appeal is made always to the indi- 
vidual mind. But it is different with a play. Since a 
drama is, in essence, a story devised to be presented 
by actors on a stage before an audience, it must 
necessarily be designed to appeal at once to a multi- 
tude of people. We have to be alone in order to 
appreciate the Venus of Melos or the Sistine Ma- 

30 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 31 

donna or the Ode to a Nightingale or the Egoist 
or the Religio Medici; but who could sit alone in 
a wide theatre and see Cyrano de Bergerac per- 
formed? The sympathetic presence of a multitude 
of people would be as necessary to our apprecia- 
tion of the play as solitude in all the other cases. 
And because the drama must be written for a crowd, 
it must be fashioned differently from the other, and 
less popular, forms of art. 

No writer is really a dramatist unless he recog- 
nises this distinction of appeal; and if an author 
is not accustomed to writing for the crowd, he can 
hardly hope to make a satisfying play. Tenny- 
son, the perfect poet ; Browning, the master of the 
human mind ; Stevenson, the teller of enchanting 
tales : — each of them failed when he tried to make 
a drama, because the conditions of his proper art 
had^choojed hiin long in writing for the individual 
instead of for the cr owd. A literary artist who 
writes for the individual may produce a great 
work of literature that is cast in the dramatic 
form ; but the work will not be, in the practical 
sense, a play. Samson Agonistes, Faust, Pippa 
Passes, Peer Gynt, and the early dream-dramas of 
Maurice Maeterlinck, are something else than 
plays. They arc not devised to be presented by 
actors on a stage before an audience. As a work 
of literature, A Blot in the 'Scutcheon is immeas- 
urably greater than The Two Orphans; but as a 



32 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

play, it is immeasurably less. For even though, in 
this particular piece, Browning did try to write 
for the theatre (at the suggestion of Macready), 
he employed the same intricately intellectual method 
of character analysis that has made many of his 
poems the most solitude-compelling of modern lit- 
erary works. Properly to appreciate his piece, 
you must be alone, just as you must be alone to 
read A Woman's Last Word. It is not written 
for a crowd; The Two Orphans, less weighty in 
wisdom, is. The second is a play. 

The mightiest masters of the drama — Sopho- 
cles, Shakespeare, and Moliere — have recognised 
the popular character of its appeal and written 
frankly for the multitude. The crowd, therefore, 
has exercised a potent influence upon the dramatist 
in every era of the theatre. One person the lyric 
poet has to please, — himself ; to a single person 
only, or an unlimited succession of single persons, 
does the novelist address himself, and he may 
choose the sort of person he will write for; but 
the dramatist must always please the many. His 
themes, his thoughts, his emotions, are circum- 
scribed by the hmits of popular appreciation. He 
writes less freely than any other author; for he 
cannot pick his auditors. Mr. Henry James may, 
if he choose, write novels for the super-civilised ; 
but a crowd is never super-civilised, and therefore 
characters like those of Mr. James could never be 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 33 

successfully presented in the theatre. Treasure 
Island is a book for boys, both young and old; 
but a modern theatre crowd is composed largely of 
women, and the theme of such a story could 
scarcely be successful on the stage. 

In order, therefore, to understand the limitations 
of the drama as an art, and clearly to define its 
scope, it is necessary to inquire into the psychology 
of theatre audiences. This subject presents two 
phases to the student. First, a theatre audience 
exhibits certain psychological traits that are com- 
mon to all crowds, of whatever kind, — a political 
convention, the spectators at a ball-game, or a 
church congregation, for example. Second, it ex- 
hibits certain other traits which distinguish it from 
other kinds of crowds. These, in turn, will be 
considered in the present chapter. 

n 

By the word crowd, as it is used in this discussion, 
is meant a nmltitude of people whose ideas and 
feelings have taken a set in a certain single direc- 
tion, and who, because of this, exhibit a tendency / 
to lose their individual self-consciousness in the 
general self-consciousness of the multitude. Any 
gathering of people for a specific purpose — 
whether of action or of worship or of amusement 
— tends to become, because of this purpose, a 
crowd, in the scientific sense. Now, a crowd has 



34 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

a mind of its own, apart from that of any of its 
individual members. The psychology of the crowd 
was little understood until late in the nineteenth 
century, when a great deal of attention was turned 
to it by a group of French philosophers. The 
subject has been most fully studied by M. Gustave 
Le Bon, who devoted some two hundred pages to 
his Psychologie des Foules. According to M. Le 
Bon, a man, by the mere fact that he forms a fac- 
tor of a crowd, tends to lose consciousness of those 
mental qualities in which he differs from his fellows, 
and becomes more keenly conscious than before of 
those other mental qualities in which he is at one 
with them. The mental qualities in which men 
differ from one another are the acquired qualities 
of intellect and character ; but the qualities in which 
/ they are at one are the innate basic passions of 
' the race. A crowd, therefore, is less intellectual 
*^and more emotional than the individuals that com- 
pose it. It is less reasonable, less judicious, less 
disinterested, more credulous, more primitive, more 
partisan; and hence, as M. Le Bon cleverly puts 
it, a man, by the mere fact that he forms a part 
of an organised crowd, is likely to descend several 
rungs on the ladder of civilisation. Even the most 
cultured and intellectual of men, when he forms 
an atom of a crowd, tends to lose consciousness of 
his acquired mental qualities and to revert to his 
primal simplicity and sensitiveness of mind. 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 35 

The dramatist, therefore, because he writes for a / 
crowd, writes for a comparatively uncivihsed and \ 
uncultivated mind, a mind richly human, vehement 
in approbation, emphatic in disapproval, easily 
credulous, eagerly enthusiastic, boyishly heroic, and 
somewhat carelessly unthinking. Now, it has been 
found in practice that the only thing that will 
keenly interest a crowd is a struggle of some sort 
or other. Speaking empirically^, the late Ferdi- 
nand Brunetiere, in 1893, stated that the drama 
has dealt always with a struggle between human 
wills; and his statement, formulated in the catch- 
phrase, " No struggle, no drama," has since be- 
come a commonplace of dramatic criticism. But, 
so far as I know, no one has yet realised the main 
reason for this, which is, simply, that characters 
are interesting to a crowd only in those crises of 
emotion that bring them to the grapple. A single 
individual, like the reader of an essay or a novel, 
may be interested intellectually in those gentle in- 
fluences beneath which a character unfolds itself 
as mildly us a water-lily ; but to what Thackeray 
called " that savage child, the crowd," a character 
does not appeal except in moments of contention. 
There never yet has been a time when Hh- theatre 
could compete successfully against the amphithea- 
tre. Plautus and Terence complained that the Ro- 
man public preferred a gladiatorial combat to their 
plays; a bear-baiting or a cock-fight used to empty 



36 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

Shakespeare's theatre on the Bankside ; and there 
is not a matinee in town to-day that can hold its 
own against a foot-ball game. Forty thousand 
people gather annually from all quarters of the 
East to see Yale and Harvard meet upon the field, 
while such a crowd could not be aggregated from 
New York alone to see the greatest play the world 
has yet produced. For the crowd demands a fight ; 
and where the actual exists, it will scarcely be con- 
tented with the semblance. 

Hence the drama, to interest at all, must cater to 
this longing for contention, which is one of the 
primordial instincts of the crowd. It must present 
its characters in some struggle of the wills, v/hether 
it be flippant, as in the case of Benedick and Bea- 
trice ; or delicate, as in that of Viola and Orsino ; 
or terrible, with Macbeth; or piteous, with Lear. 
The crowd is more partisan than the individual; 
and therefore, in following this struggle of the 
drama, it desires always to take sides. There is 
no fun in seeing a foot-ball game unless you care 
about who wins; and there is very little fun in 
seeing a play unless the dramatist allows you to 
throw your sympathies on one side or the other 
of the struggle. Hence, although in actual life ) 
both parties to a conflict are often partly right 
and partly wrong, and it is hard to choose between 
them, the dramatist usually simplifies the struggle 
in his plays by throwing the balance of right 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 37 

strongly on one side. Hence, from the ethical 
standpoint, the simplicity of theatre characters. 
Desdemona is all innocence, lago all deviltry. 
Hence also the conventional heroes and villains of 
melodrama, — these to be hissed and those to be 
applauded. Since the crowd is comparatively lack- 
ing in the judicial faculty and cannot look upon 
a play from a detached and disinterested point of 
view, it is either all for or all against a character; 
and in either case its judgment is frequently in 
defiance of the rules of reason. It will hear no 
word against Camille, though an individual would 
judge her to be wrong, and it has no sympathy 
with Pere Duval. It idolizes Raffles, who is a liar 
and a thief; it shuts its ears to Marion Allardyce, 
the defender of virtue in Letty. It wants its sym- 
pathetic characters, to love; its antipathetic char- 
acters, to hate ; and it hates and loves them as un- 
reasonably as a savage or a child. The trouble 
with Hedda Gabler as a play is that it contains not 
a single personage that the audience can love. 
The crowd demands those so-called " sympathetic " 
parts that every actor, for this reason, longs to 
represent. And since the crowd is partisan, it 
wants its favored characters to win. Plence the 
convention of the " happy ending," insisted on by 
managers who feel the pulse of the public. The 
blind Louise, in The Two Orphanx, will get her 
sight back, never fear. Even the wicked Oliver, 



38 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

in As You Like It, must turn over a new leaf and 
marry a pretty girl. 

Next to this prime instinct of partisanship in 
/ watching a contention, one of the most important 
1/ traits in the psychology of crowds is their extreme 
credulity. A crowd will nearly always believe 
anything that it sees and almost anything that it is 
told. An audience composed entirely of individ- 
uals who have no belief in ghosts will yet accept 
the Ghost in Hamlet as a fact. Bless you, they 
have seen him ! The crowd accepts the disguise 
of Rosalind, and never wonders why Orlando does 
not recognise his love. To this extreme credulity 
of the crowd is due the long line of plays that are 
founded on mistaken identity, — farces like The 
Comedy of Errors and melodramas like The Lyons 
Mail, for example. The crowd, too, will accept 
without demur any condition precedent to the story 
of a play, however impossible it might seem to the 
mind of the individual. QEdipus King has been 
married to his mother many years before the play 
begins ; but the Greek crowd forbore to ask why, 
in so long a period, the enormity had never been 
discovered. The central situation of She Stoops 
to Conquer seems impossible to the individual mind, 
but is eagerly accepted by the crowd. Individual 
critics find fault with Thomas Heywood's lovely 
old play, A Woman Killed with Kindness, on the 
ground that though Frankford's noble forgive- 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 39 

ness of his erring wife is beautiful to contemplate, 
Mrs. Frankford's infidelity is not sufficiently mo- 
tivated, and the whole story, therefore, is untrue. 
But Heywood, writing for the crowd, said frankly, 
" If you will grant that Mrs. Frankford was un- 
faithful, I can tell you a lovely story about her 
husband, who was a gentleman worth knowing: 
otherwise there can't be any story " ; and the 
Elizabethan crowd, eager for the story, was Avilling 
to oblige the dramatist with the necessary credulity. 

There is this to be said about the credulity of an 
audience, however, — that it will believe what it 
sees much more readily than what it hears. It 
might not believe in the ghost of Hamlet's father 
if the ghost were merely spoken of and did not 
walk upon the stage. If a dramatist would con- 
vince his audience of the generosity or the treach- 
ery of one character or another, he should not 
waste words either praising or blaming the charac- 
ter, but should present him to the eye in the per- 
formance of a generous or treacherous action. 
The audience hears wise words from Polonius when 
he gives his parting admonition to his son ; but the 
same audience sees him made a fool of by Prince 
Hamlet, and will not think him wise. 

The fact that a crowd's eyes arc more keenly 
receptive than its ears is the psychologic basis for 
the maxim that in the theatre action speaks louder 
than words. It also affords a reason why plays 



40 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

of which the audience does not understand a single 
word are frequently successful. Mme. Sarah 
Bernhardt's thrilling performance of La Tosca 
has always aroused enthusiasm in London and New 
York, where the crowd, as a crowd, could not un- 
derstand the language of the play. 

Another primal characteristic of the mind of the 
ly' crowd is its susceptibility to emotional contagion. 
A cultivated individual reading The School for 
Scandal at home alone will be intelligently appre- 
ciative of its delicious humor; but it is difficult to 
imagine him laughing over it aloud. Yet the same 
individual, when submerged in a theatre crowd, 
will laugh heartily over this very play, largely be- 
cause other people near him are laughing too. 
1 Laughter, tears, enthusiasm, all the basic human 
emotions, thrill and tremble through an audience, 
because each member of the crowd feels that he is 
surrounded by other people who are experiencing 
the same emotion as his own. In the sad part of 
a play it is hard to keep from weeping if the 
/ woman next to you is wiping her eyes ; and still 
harder is it to keep from laughing, even at a 
sorry jest, if the man on the other side is roaring 
in vociferous cachinnation. Successful dramatists 
play upon the susceptibility of a crowd by serving 
up raw morsels of crude humor and pathos for 
the unthinking to wheeze and blubber over, know- 
ing that these members of the audience will excite 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 41 

their more phlegmatic neighbors by contagion. 
The practical dictum that every laugh in the first 
act is worth money in the box-office is founded on 
this psychologic truth. Even puns as bad as Mr. 
Zangwill's are of value early in a play to set on 
some quantity of barren spectators and get the 
house accustomed to a titter. Scenes like the foot- 
ball episodes in The College Widow and Strong- 
heart, or the battle in The Round Up, are nearly 
always sure to raise the roof ; for it is usually suffi- 
cient to set everybody on the stage a-cheering in 
order to make the audience cheer too by sheer con- 
tagion. Another and more classical example was 
the speechless triumph of Henry V's return vic- 
torious, in Richard Mansfield's sumptuous produc- 
tion of the play. Here the audience felt that he 
was every inch a king; for it had caught the fer- 
vor of the crowd upon the stage. 

This same emotional contagion is, of course, 
the psychologic basis for the French system of the 
claque, or band of hired applauders seated in the 
centre of the house. The leader of the claque 
knows his cues as if he were an actor in the piece, 
and at the psychologic moment the claqueurs burst 
forth with their clatter and start the house ap- 
plauding. Applause begets applause in the thea- 
tre, as laughter begets laughter and tears beget 
tears. 

But not only is the crowd more emotional than 



42 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

the individual ; it is also more sensuous. It has the 
lust of the eye and of the ear, — the savage's love 
of gaudy color, the child's love of soothing sound. 
It is fond of flaring flags and blaring trumpets. 
Hence the rich-costumed processions of the Eliza- 
bethan stage, many years before the use of scenery ; 
and hence, in our own day, the success of pieces 
like The Darling of the Gods and The Rose of 
the Rancho. Color, light, and music, artistically 
blended, will hold the crowd better than the most 
absorbing story. This is the reason for the vogue 
of musical comedy, with its pretty girls, and gaudy 
sliifts of scenery and lights, and tricksy, tripping 
melodies and dances. 

Both in its sentiments and in its opinions, the 
crowd is comfortably commonplace. It is, as a 
crowd, incapable of original thought and of any 
but inherited emotion. It has no speculation in 
its eyes. What it feels was felt before the flood ; 
and what it thinks, its fathers thought before it. 
The most effective moments in the theatre are those 
that appeal to basic and commonplace emotions, 
— love of woman, love of home, love of country, 
love of right, anger, jealousy, revenge, ambition, 
lust, and treachery. So great for centuries has 
been the inherited influence of the Christian re- 
ligion that any adequate play whose motive is 
self-sacrifice is almost certain to succeed. Even 
when the self-sacrifice is unwise and ignoble, as 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 43 

in the first act of Frou-Frou, the crowd will give 
it vehement approval. Countless plays have been 
made upon the man who unselfisnly assumes respon- 
sibility for another's guilt. The great tragedies 
have famihar themes, — ambition in Macbeth, jeal- 
ousy in Othello, fihal ingratitude in Lear; there 
is nothing in these motives that the most unthink- 
ing audience could fail to understand. No crowd 
can resist the fervor of a patriot who goes down 
scornful before many spears. Show the audience 
a flag to die for, or a stalking ghost to be 
avenged, or a shred of honor to maintain against 
agonizing odds, and it will thrill with an enthusi- 
asm as ancient as the human race. Few are the 
plays that can succeed without the moving force 
of love, the most familiar of all emotions. These 
themes do not require that the audience shall think. 
But for the speculative, the original, the new, 
the crowd evinces little favor. If the dramatist 
holds ideas of religion, or of politics, or of social 
law, that are in advance of his time, he must keep 
them to himself or else his plays will fail. Nimble 
wits, like Mr. Shaw, who scorn tradition, can at- 
tain a popular success only through the crowd's 
inherent love of fads; they cannot long succeed 
when they run counter to inherited ideas. The 
great successful dramatists, like Moliere and 
Shakespeare, have always tliouglit with the crowd 
on all essential questions. Tlieir views of religion, 



44 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

of morality, of politics, of law, have been the views 
of the populace, nothing more. They never raise 
questions that cannot quickly be answered by the 
crowd, through the instinct of inherited experience. 
No mind was ever, in the philosophic sense, more 
commonplace than that of Shakespeare. He had 
no new ideas. He was never radical, and seldom 
even progressive. He was a careful money-mak- 
ing business man, fond of food and drink and 
out-of-doors and laughter, a patriot, a lover, and 
a gentleman. Greatly did he know things about 
people; greatly, also, could he write. But he ac- 
cepted the religion, the politics, and the social 
ethics of his time, without ever bothering to won- 
der if these things might be improved. 

The great speculative spirits of the world, those 
who overturn tradition and discover new ideas, have 
had minds far different from this. They have not 
written plays. It is to these men, — the philoso- 
pher, the essayist, the novelist, the lyric poet, — that 
each of us turns for what is new in thought. But 
from the dramatist the crowd desires only the old, 
old thought. It has no patience for consideration ; 
it will listen only to what it knows already. If, 
therefore, a great man has a new doctrine to ex- 
pound, let him set it forth in a book of essays ; or, 
if he needs must sugar-coat it with a story, let 
him expound it in a novel, whose appeal will be to 
the individual mind. Not until a doctrine is old 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 45 

enough to have become generally accepted is it 
ripe for exploitation in the theatre. 

This point is admirably illustrated by two of 
the best and most successful plays of recent seasons. 
The Witching Hour, by Mr. Augustus Thomas, 
and The Servant in the House, by Mr, Charles 
Rann Kenned^', were both praised by many critics 
for their " novelty " ; but to me one of the most 
significant and instructive facts about them is that 
neither of them was, in any real respect, novel in 
the least. Consider for a moment the deliberate 
and careful lack of novelty in the ideas which Mr. 
Thomas so skilfully set forth. What Mr. Thomas 
really did was to gather and arrange as many as 
possible of the popularly current thoughts con- 
cerning telepathy and cognate subjects, and to tell 
the public what they themselves had been wonder- 
ing about and thinking during the last few years. 
The timeliness of the play lay in the fact that it 
was produced late enough in the history of its 
subject to be selectively resumptive, and not nearly 
so much in the fact that it was produced early 
enough to forestall other dramatic presentations of 
the same materials. Mr. Tiiomas has himself ex- 
plained, in certain semi-public conversations, that 
he postponed tiic composition of tliis play — on 
which his mind h.id been set for many years — 
until the general public had become sufficiently ac- 
customed to the ideas which he intended to set 



46 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

forth. Ten years before, this play would have 
been novel, and would undoubtedl}' have failed. 
When it was produced, it was not novel, but re- 
sumptive, in its thought ; and therefore it suc- 
ceeded. For one of the surest ways of succeeding 
in the theatre is to sum up and present dramatically 
all that the crowd has been thinking for some time 
concerning any subject of importance. The dram- 
atist should be the catholic collector and wise in- 
terpreter of those ideas which the crowd, in its 
conservatism, feels already to be safely true. 

And if The Servant in the House will — as I 
believe — outlive The Witching Hour, it will be 
mainly because, in the author's theme and his 
ideas, it is older by many, many centuries. The 
theme of Mr. Thomas's play — namely, that 
thought is in itself a dynamic force and has the 
virtue and to some extent the power of action — 
is, as I have just explained, not novel, but is at 
least recent in the history of thinking. It is a 
theme which dates itself as belonging to the pres- 
ent generation, and is likely to lose interest for 
the next. But Mr. Kennedy's theme — namely, 
that when discordant human beings ascend to meet 
each other in the spirit of brotherly love, it may 
truly be said that God is resident among them — 
is at least as old as the gentle-hearted Galilean, 
and, being dateless, belongs to future generations 
as well as to the present. Mr. Thomas has been 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 47 

skilfully resumptive of a passing period of popular 
thought ; but Mr. Kenned}' has been resumptive on a 
larger scale, and has built his play upon the wisdom 
of the centuries. Paradoxical as it may seem, the 
very reason why The Servant in the House struck 
so many critics as being strange and new is that, 
in its thesis and its thought, it is as old as the 
world. 

The truth of this point seems to me indisputable. 
I know that the best European playwrights of the 
present day are striving to use the drama as a ve- 
hicle for the expression of advanced ideas, espe- 
cially in regard to social ethics ; but in doing this, 
I think, they are mistaking the scope of the theatre. 
They are striving to say in the drama what might 
be said better in the essay or the novel. As the 
exposition of a theory, Mr. Shaw's Man and Super- 
man is not nearly so effective as the writings of 
Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, from whom the play- 
wright borrowed his ideas. The greatest works of 
Ibsen can be appreciated only by the cultured in- 
dividual and not by the uncultured crowd. That 
is why the breadth of his ap})eal will never equal 
that of Shakespeare, in spite of his unfathomable 
intellect and his perfect mastery of the technique of 
his art. Only his more commonplace plays — A 
DolVs House, for example — have attained a wide 
success. And a wide success is a thing to be de- 
sired for other than matcri.-il reasons. Surely it is 



48 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

a good thing for the public that Hamlet never 
fails. 

The conservatism of the greatest dramatists 
asserts itself not only in their thoughts but even 
in the mere form of their plays. It is the lesser 
men who invent new tricks of technique and startle 
the public with innovations. Moliere merely per- 
, fected the type of Italian comedy that his public 
^ long had known. Shakespeare quietly adopted the 
forms that lesser men had made the crowd familiar 
with. He imitated Lyly in Lovers Labour^s Lost, 
Greene in As You Like It, Marlowe in Richard 
III, Kyd in Hamlet, and Fletcher in The Tempest. 
He did the old thing better than the other men 
had done it, — that is all. 

Yet this is greatly to Shakespeare's credit. He 
was wise enough to feel that what the crowd wanted, 
both in matter and in form, was what was needed 
in the greatest drama. In saying that Shake- 
speare's mind was commonplace, I meant to tender 
him the highest praise. In his commonplaceness 
lies his sanity. He is so greatly usual that he can 
understand all men and sympathise with them. He 
is above novelty. His wisdom is greater than the 
wisdom of the few; he is the heir of all the ages, 
and draws his wisdom from the general mind of 
man. And it is largely because of this that he 
represents ever the ideal of the dramatist. He who 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 49 

would write for the theatre must not despise the 
crowd. 

in 

All of the above-mentioned characteristics of thea- 
tre audiences, their instinct for contention and for 
partisanship, their credulity, their sensuousness, j 
their susceptibility to emotional contagion, their I 
incapacity for original thought, their conservatism,! 
and their love of the commonplace, appear in ev-|f 
ery sort of crowd, as M. Le Bon has proved witq 
ample illustration. It remains for us to notice cer- 
tain traits in which theatre audiences differ from 
other kinds of crowds. 

In the first place, a theatre audience is com- 
posed of individuals more heterogeneous than those 
that make up a political, or social, or sporting, or 
religious convocation. The crowd at a foot-ball 
game, at a church, at a social or political conven- 
tion, is by its very purpose selective of its elements: 
it is made up entirely of college-folk, or Presbyte- 
rians, or Prohibitionists, or Republicans, as the 
case may be. But a tlicatre audience is composed 
of all sorts and conditions of men. The same 
theatre in New York contains the rich and tlic 
poor, the literate and the illiterate, the old and the 
young, the native and the naturalised. The same 
play, therefore, must appeal to all of these. It 
follows that the dramatist must be broader in his 



50 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

appeal than any other artist. He cannot confine 
his message to any single caste of society. In the 
same single work of art he must incorporate ele- 
ments that will interest all classes of humankind. 

Those promising dramatic movements that have 
confined their appeal to a certain single stratum of 
society have failed ever, because of this, to achieve 
the highest excellence. The trouble with Roman 
comedy is that it was written for an audience com- 
posed chiefly of freedmen and slaves. The patri- 
cian caste of Rome walked wide of the theatres. 
Only the dregs of society gathered to applaud the 
comedies of Plautus and Terence. Hence the over- 
simplicity of their prologues, and their tedious rep- 
etition of the obvious. Hence, also, their vul- 
garity, their horse-play, their obscenity. Here was 
fine dramatic genius led astray, because the time 
was out of joint. Similarly, the trouble with 
French tragedy, in the classicist period of Corneille 
and Racine, is that it was written only for the 
finest caste of society, — the patrician coterie of a 
patrician cardinal. Hence its over-niceness, and 
its appeal to the ear rather than to the e3^e. Ter- 
ence aimed too low and Racine aimed too high. 
Each of them, therefore, shot wide of the mark ; 
while Moliere, who wrote at once for patrician and 
plebeian, scored a hit. 

The really great dramatic movements of the 
world — that of Spain in the age of Calderon and 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 51 

Lope, that of England in the spacious times of 
great EHzabeth, that of France from 1830 to the 
present hour — have broadened their appeal to ev- 
ery class. The queen and the orange-girl joyed 
together in the healthiness of Rosalind ; the king 
and the gamin laughed together at the rogueries 
of Scapin. The breadth of Shakespeare's appeal 
remains one of the most significant facts in the 
history of the drama. Tell a filthy-faced urchin 
of the gutter that you know about a play that 
shows a ghost that stalks and talks at midniglit 
underneath a castle-tower, and a man that makes 
believe he is out of his head so that he can get the 
better of a wicked king, and a girl that goes mad 
and drowns herself, and a play within the play, 
and a funeral in a churchyard, and a duel with 
poisoned swords, and a great scene at the end in 
which nearly every one gets killed : tell him this, 
and watch liis eyes grow wide! I have been to a 
tliirty-cent performance of Othello in a middle- 
western town, and have felt the audience thrill with 
the headlong hurry of the action. Vet these are 
the plays that cloistered students study for their 
wisdom and their style ! 

And let us not forget, in this connection, that a 
similar breadth of appeal is neither necessary nor 
greatly to be desired in those forms of literature 
that, unlike the drama, are nc t written for tlie 
crowd. The greatest non-dramatic poet and the 



52 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

greatest novelist in English are appreciated only 
by the few; but this is not in the least to the dis- 
credit of Milton and of Meredith. One indication 
of the greatness of Mr, Kipling's story, They, is 
that very few have learned to read it. 

Victor Hugo, in his preface to Ruy Bias, has 
discussed this entire principle from a slightly dif- 
ferent point of view. He divides the theatre au- 
dience into three classes — the thinkers, who 
demand characterisation ; the women, who demand 
passion ; and the mob, who demand action — and 
insists that every great play must appeal to all 
three classes at once. Certainly Ruy Bias itself 
fulfils this desideratum, and is great in the breadth 
of its appeal. Yet although all three of the neces- 
sary elements appear in the pla}', it has more action 
than passion and more passion than characterisa- 
tion. And this fact leads us to the theory, omitted 
by Victor Hugo from his preface, that the mob is 
more important than the women and the women 
more important than the thinkers, in the average 
theatre audience. Indeed, a deeper consideration 
of the subject almost leads us to discard the think- 
ers as a psychologic force and to obliterate the 
distinction between the women and the mob. It is 
to an unthinking and feminine-minded mob that 
the dramatist must first of all appeal; and this 
leads us to believe that action with passion for its 
motive is the prime essential for a play. 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 53 

For, nowadays at least, it is most essential that 
the drama should appeal to a crowd of women. 
Practically speaking, our matinee audiences are 
composed entirely of women, and our evening au- 
diences are composed chiefly of women and the men 
that they have brought with them. Very few men 
go to the theatre unattached; and these few are 
not important enough, from the theoretic stand- 
point, to alter the psychologic aspect of the audi- 
ence. And it is this that constitutes one of the 
most important differences between a modem thea- 
tre audience and other kinds of crowds. 

The influence of this fact upon the dramatist is 
very potent. First of all, as I have said, it forces 
him to deal chiefly in action with passion for its 
motive. And this necessity accounts for the pre- 
ponderance of female characters over male in the 
large majority of the greatest modern plays. No- 
tice Nora Helmer, Mrs. Alving, Hedda Gabler; no- 
tice Magda and Camille; notice Mrs. Tanqueray, 
Mrs. Ebbsmith, Iris, and Ix'tty, — to cite only a 
few examples. Furthermore, since women are by 
nature comparatively inattentive, the femininity of 
tlie modern theatre audience forces the dramatist to 
employ the elementary teclniical tricks of repeti- 
tion and parallelism, in order to keep his play 
clear, though much of it be unattended to. Eu- 
gene Scribe, who knew the theatre, used to say that 
every important statement in the exposition of a 



54 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

play must be made at least three times. This, of 
course, is seldom necessary in a novel, where things 
may be said once for all. 

The prevailing inattentiveness of a theatre audi- 
ence at the present day is due also to the fact that 
it is peculiarly conscious of itself, apart from the 
play that it has come to see. Many people " go 
to the theatre," as the phrase is, without caring 
much whether they see one play or another; what 
they want chiefly is to immerse themselves in a 
theatre audience. This is especially true, in New 
York, of the large percentage of people from out 
of town who " go to the theatre " merely as one 
phase of their metropolitan experience. It is true, 
also, of the many women in the boxes and the or- 
chestra who go less to see than to be seen. It is 
one of the great difficulties of the dramatist that 
he must capture and enchain the attention of an 
audience thus composed. A man does not pick up 
a novel unless he cares to read it; but many peo- 
ple go to the theatre chiefly for the sense of being 
there. Certainly, therefore, the problem of the 
dramatist is, in this respect, more difficult than that 
of the novelist, for he must make his audience lose 
consciousness of itself in the consciousness of his 
play. 

One of the most essential diff'erences between a 
theatre audience and other kinds of crowds lies in 
the purpose for which it is convened. This pur- 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 



00 



pose is always recreation. A theatre audience is 
therefore less serious than a church congregation 
or a political or social convention. It does not 
come to be edified or educated; it has no desire to 
be taught : what it wants is to have its emotions 
played upon. It seeks amusement — in the widest 
sense of the word — amusement through laugliter, 
s^-mpathy, terror, and tears. And it is amusement 
of this sort that the great dramatists have ever 
given it. 

The trouble with most of the dreamers wlio 
league themselves for the uplifting of the stage is 
that they consider the theatre with an illogical so- 
lemnity. They base their efforts on the proposi- 
tion that a theatre audience ought to want to be 
edified. As a matter of fact, no audience ever does. 
aVIoliere and Shakespeare, who knew the limits of 
their art, never said a word about uplifting the 
stage. They wrote plays to please the crowd ; and 
if, through their inherent greatness, they became 
teachers as well as entertainers, they did so with- 
out any tall talk about the solemnity of their 
mission. Their audiences learned largely, but they 
did so unawares, — God being with them when they 
knew it not. The demand for an endowed theatre 
in America comes chiefly from those who believe 
that a great play cannot earn its own living. Yet 
Hamlet has made more money than any other pTay 
in English ; The School for Scandal never fails 




56 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

to draw ; and in our own day we have seen Cyrano 
de Bergerac coining money all around the world. 
There were not any endowed theatres in Elizabethan 
London. Give the crowd the sort of plays it 
wants, and you will not have to seek beneficence to 
keep your theatre floating. But, on the other 
hand, no endowed theatre will ever lure the crowd 
to listen to the sort of plays it does not want. 
There is a wise maxim appended to one of Mr. 
George Ade's Fables in Slang: " In uplifting, get 
underneath." If the theatre in America is weak, 
what it needs is not endowment: it needs great and 
popular plays. Why should we waste our money 
and our energy trying to make the crowd come to 
see The Master Builder, or A Blot in the 'Scutch- 
eon, or The Hour Glass, or Pelleas and Melisande? 
It is willing enough to come without urging to see 
Othello and The Second Mrs. Tanqueray. Give us 
one great dramatist who understands the crowd, 
and we shall not have to form societies to propagate 
his art. Let us cease our prattle of the theatre for 
the few. Any play that is really great as drama 
will interest the many. 

rv 

One point remains to be considered. In any 
theatre audience there are certain individuals who 
do not belong to the crowd. They are in it, but 
not of it; for they fail to merge their individual 



THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AUDIENCES 57 

self-consciousness in the general self-consciousness 
of the multitude. Such are the professional critics, 
and other confirmed frequenters of the theatre. It 
is not for them primarily that plays are written ; 
and any one who has grown individualised through 
the theatre-going habit cannot help looking back 
regretfully upon those fresher days when he be- 
longed, unthinking, to the crowd. A first-night 
audience is anomalous, in that it is composed 
largely of individuals opposed to self-surrender; 
and for this reason, a first-night judgment of the 
merits of a play is rarely final. The dramatist has 
written for a crowd, and he is judged by individ- 
uals. Most dramatic critics will tell you that they 
long to lose themselves in the crowd, and regret the 
aloofness from the play that comes of their pro- 
fession. It is because of this aloofness of the 
critic that most dramatic criticism fails. 

Throughout the present discussion, I have in- 
sisted on the point that the great dramatists have 
always written primarily for the many. Yet now 
I must add that when once they have fulfilled this 
prime necessity, they may also write secondarily 
for the few. And the very greatest have always 
done so. In so far as he was a dramatist, Shake- 
speare wrote for the crowd ; in so far as he was a 
lyric poet, he wrote for himself; and in so far as 
he was a sage and a stylist, he wrote for the in- 
dividual. In making sure of his appeal to the 



58 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

many, he earned the right to appeal to the few. 
At the thirty-cent performance of Othello that I 
spoke of, I was probably the only person present 
who failed to submerge his individuality beneath 
the common consciousness of the audience. Shake- 
speare made a play that could appeal to the rabble 
of that middle-western town ; but he wrote it in a 
verse that none of them could hear : — 

Not poppy, nor mandragora, 
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world, 
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep 
Which thou ow'dst yesterday. 

The greatest dramatist of all, in writing for the 
crowd, did not neglect the individual. 



Ill 

THE ACTOR AND THE DRAMATIST 

We have already agreed that the dramatist works 
ever under the sway of three influences which are not 
felt by exclusively literary artists like the poet and 
the novelist. The physical conditions of the thea- 
tre in any age affect to a great extent the form 
and structure of the drama; the conscious or un- 
conscious demands of the audience, as we have ob- 
serv'ed in the preceding cliapter, determine for the 
dramatist the themes he shall portray; and the 
range or restrictions of his actors have an imme- 
diate effect upon the dramatist's great task of 
character-creation. In fact, so potent is the in- 
fluence of the actor upon the dramatist that the lat- 
ter, in creating character, goes to work very dif- 
ferently from his literary fellow-artists, — the 
novelist, the story-writer, or the poet. Great char- 
acters in non-dramatic fiction have often resulted 
from abstract imagining, witliout dirt'ct reference 
to any actual person : Don Quixote, Tito Melema, 
Leatherstocking, sprang full-grown from their 
creators' minds and struck the world as strange 
and new. But tlie greatest characters in the drama 

59 



60 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

Imve almost always taken on the physical, and to 
a great extent the mental, characteristics of certain 
great actors for whom they have been fashioned. 
Cyrano is not merely Cyrano, but also Coquelin ; 
Mascarille is not merely Mascarille, but also Mo- 
liere; Hamlet is not merely Hamlet, but also Rich- 
ard Burbage. Closet-students of the plays of 
Sophocles may miss a point or two if they fail to 
consider that the dramatist prepared the part of 
CEdipus in three successive dramas for a certain 
star-performer on the stage of Dionysus. The 
greatest dramatists have built their plays not so 
much for reading in the closet as for immediate 
presentation on the stage; they have grown to 
greatness only after having achieved an initial suc- 
cess that has given them the freedom of the thea- 
tre ; and their conceptions of character have there- 
fore crystallised around the actors that they have 
found waiting to present their parts. A novelist 
may conceive his heroine freely as being tall or 
short, frail or firmly built; but if a dramatist is 
making a play for an actress like Maude Adams, 
an airy, slight physique is imposed upon his hero- 
ine in advance. 

Shakespeare was, among other things, the di- 
rector of the Lord Chamberlain's men, who per- 
formed in the Globe, upon the Bankside; and his 
plays are replete with evidences of the influence 
upon him of the actors whom he had in charge. It 



THE ACTOR AND THE DRAMATIST 6l 

is patent, for example, that the same comedian must 
have created Launce in Two Gentlemen of Verona 
and Launcelot Gobbo in the Merch-ant of Venice; 
the low comic hit of one production was bodily 
repeated in the next. It is almost as obvious that 
the parts of Mercutio and Gratiano must have 
been intrusted to the same performer; both char- 
acters seem made to fit the same histrionic tempera- 
ment. If Hamlet were the hero of a novel, we 
should all, I think, conceive of him as slender, and 
the author would agree with us ; yet, in the last 
scene of the play, the Queen expressly says, " He's 
fat, and scant of breath." This line has puzzled 
many commentators, as seeming out of character; 
but it merely indicates that Richard Burbage was 
fleshy during the season of 1602. 

The Elizabethan expedient of disguising the 
heroine as a boy, which was invented by John 
Lyly, made popular by Robert Greene, and eagerly 
adopted by Shakespeare and Fletcher, seems un- 
convincing on the modern stage. It is hard for us 
to imagine how Orlando can fail to recognise his 
love when he meets her clad as Ganymede in the 
forest of Arden, or how Bassanio can be blinded to 
the figure of his wife when she enters the court- 
room in the almost feminine robes of a doctor of 
laws. Clothes cannot make a man out of an ac- 
tress; we recognize Ada Rchan or Julia Marlowe 
beneath the trappings and the suits of their dis- 



62 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

guises ; and it might seem that Shakespeare was 
depending over-much upon the proverbial credul- 
ity of theatre audiences. But a glance at histri- 
onic conditions in Shakespeare's day will show us 
immediately why he used this expedient of disguise 
not only for Portia and Rosalind, but for Viola 
and Imogen as well. Shakespeare wrote these 
parts to be played not by women but by boys. 
Now, when a boy playing a woman disguised him- 
self as a woman playing a boy, the disguise must 
have seemed baffling, not only to Orlando and Bas- 
sanio on the stage, but also to the audience. It 
was Shakespeare's boy actors, rather than his nar- 
rative imagination, that made him recur repeatedly 
in this case to a dramatic expedient which he would 
certainly discard if he were writing for actresses 
to-day. 

If we turn from the work of Shakespeare to that 
of Moliere, we shall find many more evidences of 
the influence of the actor on the dramatist. In 
fact, Moliere's entire scheme of character-creation 
cannot be understood without direct reference to 
the histrionic capabilities of the various members 
of the Troupe de Monsieur. Moliere's Immediate 
and practical concern was not so much to create 
comic characters for all time as to make effective 
parts for La Grange and Du Croisy and Mag- 
deleine Bejart, for his wife and for himself. La 
Grange seems to have been the Charles Wyndham 



THE ACTOR AND THE DRAMATIST 63 

of his day, — every inch a gentleman ; his part in 
any of the plays may be distinguished by its ele- 
gant urbanity. In Les Prec'wuses Ridicules the 
gentlemanly characters are actually named La 
Grange and Du Croisy; the actors walked on and 
played themselves ; it is as if Augustus Thomas 
had called the hero of his best play, not Jack 
Brookfield, but John Mason. In the early pe- 
riod of Moliere's art, before he broadened as an 
actor, the parts that he wrote for himself were 
often so much alike from play to play that he 
called them by the same conventional theatric 
name of Mascarille or Sganarelle, and played them, 
doubtless, with the same costume and make-up. 
Later on, when he became more versatile as an 
actor, he wrote for himself a wider range of parts 
and individualised them in name as well as in 
nature. His growth in depicting the characters of 
young women is curiously coincident with the 
growth of his wife as an actress for whom to de- 
vise such characters. Moliere's best woman — 
Celimene, in Le Misanthrope — was created for 
Mile. Moliere at the height of her career, and is en- 
dowed with all her physical and mental traits. 

The reason why so many of the Queen Anne 
dramatists in England wrote comedies setting forth 
a dandified and foppish gentleman is that Colley 
Gibber, the foremost actor of the time, could play 
the fop better than he could play anything else. 



64 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

The reason why there is no love scene between 
Charles Surface and Maria in The School for 
Scandal is that Sheridan knew that the actor and 
the actress who were cast for these respective roles 
were incapable of making love gracefully upon 
the stage. The reason why Victor Hugo's Crom- 
well overleaped itself in composition and became 
impossible for purposes of stage production is that 
Talma, for whom the character of Cromwell was 
designed, died before the piece was finished, and 
Hugo, despairing of having the part adequately 
acted, completed the play for the closet instead of 
for the stage. But it is unnecessary to cull from 
the past further instances of the direct dependence 
of the dramatist upon his actors. We have only 
to look about us at the present day to see the same 
influence at work. 

For example, the career of one of the very best 
endowed theatrical composers of the nineteenth 
century, the late Victorien Sardou, has been molded 
and restricted for all time by the talents of a sin- 
gle star performer, Mme. Sarah Bernhardt. Un- 
der the influence of Eugene Scribe, Sardou began 
his career at the Theatre Fran9ais with a wide 
range of well-made plays, varying in scope from 
the social satire of Nos Intimes and the farcical in- 
trigue of Les Pattes de Mouche (known to us in 
English as The Scrap of Paper) to the tremendous 
historic panorama of Patrie. When Sarah Bern- 



THE ACTOR AND THE DRAMATIST 65 

hardt left the Comedie Fran9aise, Sardou followed 
in her footsteps, and afterwards devoted most of 
his energy to preparing a series of melodramas to 
serv-e successively as vehicles for her. Now, Sarah 
Bernhardt is an actress of marked abilities, and 
limitations likewise marked. In sheer perfection 
of technique she surpasses all performers of her 
time. She is the acme of histrionic dexterity ; all 
that she does upon the stage is, in sheer effective- 
ness, superb. But in her work she has no soul; 
she lacks the sensitive sweet lure of Duse, the serene 
and star-lit poetry of Modjeska. Three things she 
does supremely well. She can be seductive, with a 
cooing voice ; she can be vindictive, with a cawing 
voice; and, voiceless, she can die. Hence the for- 
mula of Sardou's melodramas. 

His heroines are almost always Sarah Bem- 
hardts, — luring, tremendous, doomed to die. 
Fedora, Gismonda, La Tosca, Zoraya, are but a 
single woman who transmigrates from play to 
play. We find her in different countries and in 
different times ; but she always lures and fascinates 
a man, stonns against insuperable circumstance, 
coos and caws, and in the outcome dies. One of 
Sardou's latest efforts. La Sorciere, presents the 
dry bones of the fonnula without the flesh and 
blood of life. Zoraya appears first shimmering 
in inoonh'ght ujjon the hills of Spain, — dovelike 
in voice, serpentining in seductiveness. Next, she 



66 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

is allowed to hypnotise the audience while she is 
h^^pnotising the daughter of the governor. She 
is loved and she is lost. She curses the high tribu- 
nal of the Inquisition, — a dove no longer now. 
And she dies upon cathedral steps, to organ music. 
The Sorceress is but a lifeless piece of mechanism ; 
and when it was performed in English by Mrs. 
Patrick Campbell, it failed to lure or to thrill. 
But Sarah Bernhardt, because as an actress she is 
Zoraya, contrived to lift it into life. Justly we 
may say that, in a certain sense, this is Sarah 
Bernhardt's drama instead of Victorien Sardou's. 
With her, it is a play ; without her, it is nothing 
but a formula. The young author of Patrie 
promised better things than this. Had he chosen, 
he might have climbed to nobler heights. But he 
chose instead to write, year after year, a vehicle 
for the Muse of Melodrama, and sold his laurel 
crown for gate-receipts. 

If Sardou suffered through playing the sedulous 
ape to a histrionic artist, it is no less true that 
the same practice has been advantageous to M. 
Edmond Rostand. M. Rostand has shrewdly writ- 
ten for the greatest comedian of the recent gen- 
eration ; and Constant Coquelin was the making of 
him as a dramatist. The poet's early pieces, like 
Les Romanesques, disclosed him as a master of 
preciosity, exquisitely lyrical, but lacking in the 
sterner stuff of drama. He seemed a new de Ban- 



THE ACTOR AND THE DRAMATIST 67 

ville — dainty, dallying, and deft — a writer of 
witty and prett}' verses — nothing more. Then 
it fell to his lot to devise an acting part for Coque- 
lin, which in the compass of a single play should 
allow that great performer to sweep through the 
whole wide range of his varied and versatile accom- 
plishment. With the figure of Coquelin before him, 
M. Rostand set earnestly to work. The result of 
his endeavor was the character of Cyrano de Ber- 
gerac, which is considered by many critics the 
richest acting part, save Hamlet, in the histor}' of 
the theatre. 

UAiglon was also devised under the immediate 
influence of the same actor. The genesis of this 
latter play is, I think, of peculiar interest to stu- 
dents of the drama; and I shall therefore relate 
it at some length. The facts were told by M. 
Coquelin himself to his friend Professor Brander 
^Matthews, who has kindly permitted me to state 
them in this place. One evening, after the ex- 
traordinary success of Cyrano, M. Rostand met 
Coquelin at the Porte St. Martin and said, " You 
know, Coq, this is not the last part I want to write 
for you. Can't you give me an idea to get me 
started — an idea for another chai'acter? " The 
actor thought for a moment, and then answered, 
" I've always wanted to play a vwux grognard du 
'premier empire — un grenadier a grandes mous- 
taches." ... A gruinj)y grenadier of Napo- 



68 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

Icon's army — a grenadier with sweeping mous- 
taches — with this cue the dramatist set to work 
and gradually imagined the character of Flambeau. 
He soon saw that if the great Napoleon were to 
appear in the play he would dominate the action 
and steal the centre of the stage from the soldier- 
hero. He therefore decided to set the story after 
the Emperor's death, in the time of the weak and 
vacillating Due de Reichstadt. Flambeau, who 
had served the eagle, could now transfer his alle- 
giance to the eaglet, and stand dominant with the 
memory of battles that had been. But after the 
dramatist had been at work upon the play for some 
time, he encountered the old difficulty in a new 
guise. At last he came in despair to Coquelin and 
said, " It isn't your play, Coq ; it can't be ; the 
young duke is running away with it, and I can't 
stop him ; Flambeau is but a secondary figure after 
all. What shall I do?" And Coquelin, who un- 
derstood him, answered, " Take it to Sarah ; she has 
just played Hamlet, and wants to do another boy." 
So M. Rostand " took it to Sarah," and finished 
up the duke with her in view, while in the back- 
ground the figure of Flambeau scowled upon him 
over grandes moustaches — a true grognard in- 
deed! Thus it happened that Coquelin never 
played the part of Flambeau until he came to New 
York with Mme. Sarah Bernhardt in the fall of 
1900 ; and the grenadier conceived in the Porte St. 



THE ACTOR AND THE DRAMATIST 69 

Martin first saw the footlights in the Garden Thea- 
tre. 

But the contemporary English-speaking stage 
furnishes examples just as striking of the influence 
of the actor on the dramatist. Sir Arthur Wing 
Pinero's greatest heroine, Paula Tanqueray, wore 
from her inception the physical aspect of Mrs. 
Patrick Campbell. Many of the most effective 
dramas of Mr. Henry Arthur Jones have been built 
around the personality of Sir Charles Wyndham. 
The Wyndham part in Mr. Jones's plays is always 
a gentleman of the world, who understands life be- 
cause he has lived it, and is " wise with the quiet 
memory of old pain." He is moral because he 
knows the futility of immorality. He is lonely, 
lovable, dignified, reliable, and sound. By serene 
and unobtrusive understanding he straightens out 
the difficulties in which the other people of the play 
have wilfully become entangled. He shows them 
the error of their follies, preaches a worldly-wise 
little sermon to each one, and sends them back to 
their true places in life, sadder and wiser men and 
women. In order to give Sir Charles Wyndham 
an opportunity to display all phases of his experi- 
enced gentility in such a character as this, Mr. 
Jones has repeated the part in drama after drama. 

Many of the greatest characters of the theatre 
have been so essentially imbued with the physical 
and mental personaUtj of the actors who created 



70 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

them that they have died with their performers and 
been lost forever after from the world of art. In 
this regard we think at once of Rip Van Winkle. 
The little play that Mr. Jefferson, with the aid of 
Dion Boucicault, fashioned out of Washington 
Irving's story is scarcely worth the reading ; and 
if, a hundred years from now, any student of the 
drama happens to look it over, he may wonder in 
vain why it was so beloved, for many, many years, 
by all America ; and there will come no answer, 
since the actor's art will then be only a tale that 
is told. So Beau Brummel died with Mr. Mans- 
field ; and if our children, who never saw his superb 
performance, chance in future years to read the 
lines of Mr. Fitch's play, they will hardly believe 
us when we tell them that the character of Brum- 
mel once was great. With such current instances 
before us, it ought not to be so difficult as many 
university professors find it to understand the 
vogue of certain plays of the Elizabethan and 
Restoration eras which seem to us now, in the read- 
ing, lifeless things. When we study the mad 
dramas of Nat Lee, we should remember Betterton ; 
and properly to appreciate Thomas Otway, we 
must imagine the aspect and the voice of Elizabeth 
Barry. 

It may truthfully be said that Mrs. Barry cre- 
ated Otway, both as dramatist and poet; for Ths 
Orphan and Venice Preserved, the two most pa- 



THE ACTOR AND THE DRAMATIST 71 

thetic plan's in English, would never have been writ- 
ten but for her. It is often thus within the power 
of an actor to create a dramatist; and his surest 
means of immortality is to inspire the composition 
of plays which may survive his own demise. After 
Duse is dead, poets may read La Citta Morta, and 
imagine her. The memory of Coquelin is, in this 
way, likely to live longer than that of Talma. 
We can merely guess at Talma's art, because the 
plays in which he acted are unreadable to-day. 
But if M. Rostand's Cyrano is read a hundred 
years from now, it will be possible for students of 
it to imagine in detail the salient features of the 
art of Coquelin. It will be evident to them that 
the actor made love luringly and died effectively, 
that he was capable of lyric reading and staccato 
gasconade, that he had a burly humor and that 
touch of sentiment that trembles into tears. Simi- 
larly we know to-day, from the fact that Shake- 
speare played the Ghost in Hamlet, that he must 
have had a voice that was full and resonant and 
deep. So from reading the plays of Moliere we can 
imagine the robust figure of Magdeleine Bejart, 
the grace of La Grange, the pretty petulance of the 
flighty fair Armande. 

Some sense of this must have been in the mind 
of Sir Henry Ir\'ing when he strove industriously 
to create a dramatist who might survive him and 
immortalise his memory. The facile, uncreative 



72 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

Wills was granted many chances, and in Charles I 
lost an opportunity to make a lasting drama. 
Lord Tennyson came near the mark in Bechet ; but 
this play, like those of Wills, has not proved sturd}' 
enough to survive the actor who inspired it. For 
all his striving, Sir Henry left no dramatist as a 
monument to his art. 



IV 

STAGE CONVENTIONS IN MODERN TIMES 



In 1581 Sir Philip Sidney praised the tragedy 
of Gorboduc, which he had seen acted by the gen- 
tlemen of the Inner Temple, because it was " full 
of stately speeches and well-sounding phrases." 
A few years later the young poet, Christopher 
Marlowe, promised the audience of his initial trag- 
edy that they should " hear the Scythian Tam- 
burlaine threatening the world with high astound- 
ing terms." These two statements are indicative 
of the tenor of Elizabethan plays. Gorboduc, to 
be sure, was a ponderous piece, made according to 
the pseudo-classical fashion that soon went out of 
favor; while Tamhurlaine the Great was trium- 
phant with the drums and tramplings of romance. 
The two plays were diametrically opposed in 
method ; but they had this in common : each was 
full of stately speeches and of high astounding 
teiTTis. 

Nearly a century later, in 1670, John Dryden 

73 



74 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

added to the second part of his Conquest of 
Granada an epilogue in which he criticised ad- 
versely the dramatists of the elder age. Speaking 
of Ben Jonson and his contemporaries, he said: 

But were they now to write, when critics weigh 
Each line, and every word, throughout a play, 
None of them, no, not Jonson in his height, 
Could pass without allowing grains for weight. 

Wit 's now arrived to a more high degree; 
Our native language more refined and free: 
Our ladies and our men now speak more wit 
In conversation than those poets writ. 

This criticism was characteristic of a new era that 
was dawning in the English drama, during which 
a playwright could hope for no greater glory than 
to be praised for the brilliancy of his dialogue or 
the smartness of his repartee. 

At the present day, if you ask the average 
theatre-goer about the merits of the play that he 
has lately witnessed, he will praise it not for its 
stately speeches nor its clever repartee, but because 
its presentation was " so natural." He will tell 
you that A Woman's Way gave an apt and ad- 
mirable reproduction of contemporary manners in 
New York; he will mention the make of the auto- 
mobile that went chug-chugging off the stage at 
the second curtain-fall of Man and Superman, or 
he will assure you that Lincoln made him feel the 



MODERN STAGE CONVENTIONS 75 

very presence of the martyred President his father 
actually saw. 

These different classes of comments give evidence 
of three distinct steps in the evolution of the Eng- 
lish drama. During the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries it was essentially a Drama of Rhetoric; 
throughout the eighteenth century it was mainly 
a Drama of Conversation ; and during the nine- 
teenth century it has growT^i to be a Drama of 
Illusion. During the first period it aimed at poetic 
power, during the second at brilliancy of dialogue, 
and during the third at naturalness of represent- 
ment. Throughout the last three centuries, the 
gradual perfecting of the physical conditions of 
the theatre has made possible the Drama of Illu- 
sion ; the conventions of the actor's art have under- 
gone a similar progression ; and at the same time 
the change in the taste of the theatre-going public 
has made a well-sustained illusion a condition prece- 
dent to success upon the modern stage. 



Mr. Ben Greet, in his sceneless performances 
of Shakespeare during recent seasons, has re- 
minded us of some of the main physical features 
of the Elizabethan theatre; and the others are ro 
generally known that we need review them only 
briefly. A typical Elizabethan play-house, like 



76 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

the Globe or the Blackfriars, stood roofless in the 
air. The stage was a projecting platform sur- 
rounded on three sides by the groundlings who had 
paid threepence for the privilege of standing in 
the pit ; and around this pit, or yard, were built 
boxes for the city madams and the gentlemen of 
means. Often the side edges of the stage itself 
M'ere lined with young gallants perched on three- 
legged stools, who twitted the actors when they 
pleased or disturbed the play by boisterous inter- 
ruptions. At the back of the platform was hung 
an arras through which the players entered, and 
which could be drawn aside to discover a set piece 
of stage furnishing, like a bed or a banqueting 
board. Above the arras was built an upper room, 
which might serve as Juliet's balcony or as the 
speaking-place of a commandant supposed to stand 
upon a city's walls. No scenery was employed, ex- 
cept some elaborate properties that might be 
drawn on and off before the eyes of the spectators, 
like the trellised arbor in The Spanish Tragedy 
on which the young Horatio was hanged. Since 
there was no curtain, the actors could never be 
" discovered " on the stage and were forced to 
make an exit at the end of every scene. Plays 
were produced bj' daylight, under the sun of after- 
noon ; and the stage could not be darkened, even 
when it was necessary for Macbeth to perpetrate 
a midnight murder. 



MODERN STAGE CONVENTIONS 77 

In order to succeed in a theatre such as this, 
the drama was necessaril}' forced to be a Drama 
of Rhetoric. From 1576, when James Burbage 
built the first plaj^-house in London, until 1642, 
when the theatres were formally closed by act of 
Parliament, the drama dealt with stately speeches 
and with high astounding terms. It was played 
upon a platform, and had to appeal more to the 
ears of the audience than to their e3es. Spectacu- 
lar elements it had to some extent, — gaud}', though 
inappropriate, costumes, and stately processions 
across the stage; but no careful imitation of the 
actual facts of life, no illusion of reality in the 
representment, could possibly be effected. 

The absence of scener}' forced the dramatists 
of the time to introduce poetic passages to suggest 
the atmosphere of their scenes. Lorenzo and Jes- 
sica opened the last act of The Merchant of 
Venice with a pretty dialogue descriptive of a 
moonlit evening, and the banished duke in As You 
Like It discoursed at length upon the pleasures of 
life in the forest. The stage could not be dark- 
ened in Macbeth; but the hero was made to say, 
" Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to the 
rooky wood." Sometimes, when the scene was sup- 
posed to change from one country to another, a 
chorus was sent forth, as in Henry V, to ask the 
audience frankly to transfer their imaginations 
overseas. 



78 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

The fact that the stage was surrounded on 
three sides by standing spectators forced the actor 
to emulate the platform orator. Set speeches were 
introduced bodily into the text of a play, although 
they impeded the progress of the action. Jacques 
reined a comed}^ to a standstill while he discoursed 
at length upon the seven ages of man. Soliloquies 
were common, and formal dialogues prevailed. 
By convention, all characters, regardless of their 
education or station in life, were considered capa- 
ble of talking not only verse, but poetry. The 
untutored sea-captain in Twelfth Night spoke of 
" Arion on the dolphin's back," and in another 
play the sapheads Salanio and Salarino discoursed 
most eloquent music. 

In New York at the present day a singular simi- 
larity to Elizabethan conventions may be noted 
in the Chinese theatre in Doyer Street. Here we 
have a platform drama in all its nakedness. There 
is no curtain, and the stage is bare of scenery. 
The musicians sit upon the stage, and the actors 
enter through an arras at the right or at the lefl: 
of the rear wall. The costumes are elaborate, and 
the players frequently parade around the stage. 
Long speeches and set colloquies are common. 
Only the crudest properties are used. Two can- 
dlesticks and a small image on a table are taken 
to represent a temple ; a man seated upon an over- 
turned chair is supposed to be a general on a 



MODERN STAGE CONVENTIONS 79 

charger; and when a character is obliged to cross a 
river, he walks the length of the stage trailing an 
oar behind him. The audience does not seem to 
notice that these conventions are unnatural, — any 
more than did the 'prentices in the pit, when 
Burbage, with the sun shining full upon his face, 
announced that it was then the very witching time 
of night. 

The Drama of Rhetoric which was demanded by 
the physical conditions of the Elizabethan stage 
survived the Restoration and did not die until the 
day of Addison's Cato. Imitations of it have 
even struggled on the stage within the nineteenth 
century. The Virginius of Sheridan Knowles and 
the Richelieu of Bulwer-Lytton were both framed 
upon the Elizabethan model, and earned the plat- 
form drama down to recent times. But though 
traces of the platform drama still exist, the perioH 
of its pristine vigor terminated with the closing of 
the theatres in 1642. 

When the drama was resumed in 1660, the physi- 
cal conditions of the theatre underwent a material 
change. At this time two great play-houses were 
chartered, — the King's Theatre in Drury Lane, 
and the Duke of York's Theatre in Lincoln's Inn 
PMelds. Thomas Killigrew, the manager of the 
Theatre Royal, was the first to introduce women 
actors on the stage; and })arts which formerly had 
beca played by boys were soon perfonncd by 



80 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

actresses as moving as the great Elizabeth Barry. 
To William Davcnant, the manager of the Duke's 
Theatre, belongs the credit for a still more impor- 
tant innovation. During the eighteen years when 
public dramatic performances had been prohibited, 
he had secured permission now and then to produce 
an opera upon a private stage. For these musi- 
cal entertainments he took as a model the masques, 
or court celebrations, which had been the most 
popular form of private theatricals in the days 
of Elizabeth and James. It is well known that 
masques had been produced with elaborate scenic 
appointments even at a time when the professional 
stage was bare of scenery. While the theatres had 
been closed, Davenant had used scenery in his 
operas, to keep them out of the forbidden pale of 
professional plays; and now in 1660, when he 
came forth as a regular theatre manager, he con- 
tinued to use scenery, and introduced it into the 
production of comedies and tragedies. 

But the use of scenery was not the only inno- 
vation that carried the Restoration theatre far 
beyond its Elizabethan prototype. Play-houses 
were now regularly roofed ; and the stage was arti- 
ficially lighted by lamps. The shifting of scenery 
demanded the use of a curtain ; and it became possi- 
ble for the first time to disclose actors upon the 
stage and to leave them grouped before the audience 
at the end of an act. 



MODERN STAGE CONVENTIONS 81 

All of these improvements rendered possible a 
closer approach to naturalness of representment 
than had ever been made before. Palaces and 
flowered meads, drawing-rooms and city streets, 
could now be suggested by actual scenery in- 
stead of by descriptive passages in the text. Cos- 
tumes became appropriate, and properties were 
more nicely chosen to give a flavor of actuality 
to the scene. At the same time the platform re- 
ceded, and the groundlings no longer stood about 
it on the sides. The gallants were banished from 
the stage, and the greater part of the audience 
was gathered directl}' in front of the actors. Some 
traces of the former platform system, however, 
still remained. In front of the curtain, the stage 
projected into a wide " apron," as it was called, 
lined on either side by boxes filled with spectators; 
and the house was so inadequately lighted that 
almost all the acting had to be done within the 
focus of the footlights. After the curtain rose, 
the actors advanced into this projecting " apron " 
and performed the main business of the act beyond 
the range of scenery and furniture. 

With the " apron " stage arose a more natural 
form of play than had been produced upon the 
Elizabethan platform. The Drama of Rhetoric 
was soon supplanted by the Drama of Conver- 
sation. Oratory gradually disappeared, set 
speeches were abolished, and poetic lines gave place 



82 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

to rapid repartee. The comedy of conversation 
that began with Sir George Etherege in 1664 
reached its culmination with Sheridan in a httle 
more than a hundred 3'ears; and during this cen- 
tury the drama became more and more natural as 
the years progressed. Even in the days of Sheri- 
dan, however, the conventions of the theatre were 
still essentially unreal. An actor entered a room 
by walking through the walls ; stage furniture was 
formally arranged ; and each act terminated with 
the players grouped in a semicircle and bowing 
obeisance to applause. The lines in Sheridan's 
comedies were indiscriminately witty. Every char- 
acter, regardless of his birth or education, had his 
clever things to say ; and the servant bandied epi- 
grams with the lord. 

It was not until the nineteenth century was well 
under way that a decided improvement was made 
in the physical conditions of the theatre. When 
Madame Vestris assumed the management of the 
Olympic Theatre in London in 1831 she inaugu- 
rated a new era in stage conventions. Her hus- 
band, Charles James Mathews, says in his auto- 
biography, " There was introduced that reform in 
all theatrical matters which has since been adopted 
in every theatre in the kingdom. Drawing-rooms 
were fitted up like drawing-rooms and furnished 
with care and taste. Two chairs no longer indicated 
that two persons were to be seated, the two chairs 



MODERN STAGE CONVENTIONS 83 

being removed indicating that the two persons 
were not to be seated." At the first performance 
of Boucicault's London Assurance, in 1841, a fur- 
ther innovation was marked by the introduction 
of the " box set," as it is called. Instead of rep- 
resenting an interior scene by a series of wings 
set one behind the other, the scene-shifters now 
built the side walls of a room solidly from front 
to rear ; and the actors were made to enter, not by 
walking through the wings, but by opening real 
doors that turned upon their hinges. At the same 
time, instead of the formal stage furniture of for- 
mer years, appointments were introduced that were 
carefully designed to suit the actual conditions of 
the room to be portra\'ed. From this time stage- 
settings advanced rapidly to greater and greater 
degrees of naturalness. Acting, however, was still 
largely conventional ; for the " apron " stage sur- 
vived, with its semicircle of footlights, and every 
important piece of stage business had to be done 
within their focus. 

The greatest revolution of modern times in stage 
conventions owes its origin directly to the inven- 
tion of the electric light. Now that it is possible 
to make every corner of the stage clearly visible 
from all parts of the house, it is no longer neces- 
sary for an actor to hold the centre of the scene. 
The introduction of electric li^Mits abolished the 
necessity of the " apron " stage and made possible 



84 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

the picture-frame proscenium ; and the removal of 
the " apron " struck the death-blow to the Drama 
of Conversation and led directly to the Drama of 
Illusion. As soon as the picture-frame prosce- 
nium was adopted, the audience demanded a picture 
to be placed within the frame. The stage became 
essentially pictorial, and began to be used to rep- 
resent faithfully the actual facts of life. Now 
for the first time was realised the graphic value of 
the curtain-fall. It became customary to ring 
the curtain down upon a picture that summed up 
in itself the entire dramatic accomplishment of the 
scene, instead of terminating an act with a gen- 
eral exodus of the performers or with a semicircle 
of bows. 

The most extraordinary advances in natural 
stage-settings have been made within the memory 
of the present generation of theatre-goers. Sun- 
sets and starlit skies, moonlight rippling over 
moving waves, fires that really bum, windows of 
actual glass, fountains plashing with real water, 
— all of the naturalistic devices of the latter-day 
Drama of Illusion have been developed in the last 
few decades. 

m 

Acting in Elizabethan days was a presentative, 
rather than a representative, art. The actor was 
always an actor, and absorbed his part in himself 



MODERN STAGE CONVENTIONS 85 

rather than submerging himself in his part. 
Magnificence rather than appropriateness of cos- 
tume was desired by the phitforin actor of the 
Drama of Rhetoric. He wished all eyes to be di- 
rected to himself, and never desired to be consid- 
ered merely as a component part of a great stage 
picture. Actors at that time were often robus- 
tious, periwig-pated fellows who sawed the air with 
their hands and tore a passion to tatters. 

With the rapid development of the theatre after 
the Restoration, came a movement toward greater 
naturalness in the conventions of acting. The 
player in the " apron " of a Queen Anne stage 
resembled a drawing-room entertainer rather than 
a platform orator. Fine gentlemen and ladies in 
the boxes that lined the " apron " applauded the 
witticisms of Sir Courtly Nice or Sir Fopling Flut- 
ter, as if they themselves were partakers in the 
conversation. Actors like Colley Gibber acquired 
a great reputation for their natural representment 
of the manners of polite society. 

The Drama of Conversation, therefore, was 
acted with more natural conventions than the 
Drama of Rhetoric that had preceded it. And yet 
we find that Charles Lamb, in criticising the old 
actors of the eighteenth century, praises them for 
the essential unreality of their presentations. 
They carried the spectator far away from the 
actual world to a region where society w5is more 



86 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

splendid and careless and brilliant and lax. They 
did not aim to produce an illusion of naturalness 
as our actors do to-day. If we compare the old- 
style acting of The School for Scandal, that is 
described in the essays of Lamb, with the modern 
performance of Sweet Kitty Bellairs, which dealt 
with the same period, we shall see at once how mod- 
ern acting has grown less presentative and more 
representative than it was in the days of Bensley 
and Bannister. 

The Drama of Rhetoric and the Drama of Con- 
versation both struggled on in sporadic survivals 
throughout the first half of the nineteenth cen- 
tury ; and during this period the methods of the 
platform actor and the parlor actor were con- 
sistently maintained. The actor of the " old 
school," as we are now fond of calling him, was 
compelled by the physical conditions of the thea- 
tre to keep within the focus of the footlights, and 
therefore in close proximity to the spectators. He 
could take the audience into his confidence more 
readily than can the player of the present. Some- 
times even now an actor steps out of the picture 
in order to talk intimately with the audience; but 
usually at the present day it is customary for ac- 
tors to seem totally oblivious of the spectators and 
remain always within the picture on the stage. 
The actor of the " old school " was fond of the 
long speeches of the Drama of Rhetoric and the 



MODERN STAGE CONVENTIONS 87 

brilliant lines of the Drama of Conversation. It 
may be remembered that the old actor in Trelawn-y 
of the Wells condemned a new-style play because 
it didn't contain " what you could really call a 
speech." He wanted what the French term a 
tirade to exercise his lungs and split the ears of 
the groundlings. 

But with the growth of the Drama of Illusion, 
produced within a picture-frame proscenium, actors 
have come to recognise and apply the maxim, 
*' Actions speak louder than words." What an 
actor does is now considered more important than 
what he says. The most powerful moment in* Mrs, 
Fiske's performance of Hedda Gabler was the 
minute or more in the last act when she remained 
absolutely silent. This moment was worth a dozen 
of the " real speeches " that were sighed for by the 
old actor in Trelaumy. Few of those who saw 
James A. Heme in Shore Acres will forget the 
impressive close of the play. The stage repre- 
sented the living-room of a homely country-house, 
with a large open fireplace at one side. The night 
grew late; and one by one the characters retired, 
until at last old Nathaniel Berry was left alone 
upon the stage. Slowly he locked the doors and 
closed the windows and put all things in order for 
the night. Then he took a candle and went up- 
stairs to bed, leaving the room empty and dark 
except for the flaming of the fire on the hearth. 



88 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

Great progress toward naturalness in contem- 
porary acting has been occasioned by the disap- 
pearance of the sohloquy and the aside. The re- 
linquishment of these two time-honored expedients 
has been accomplished only in most recent times. 
Sir Arthur Pinero's early farces abounded with 
asides and even lengthy soliloquies; but his later 
plays are made entirely without them. The pres- 
ent prevalence of objection to both is due largely 
to the strong influence of Ibsen's rigid dramaturgic 
structure. Dramatists have become convinced that 
the soliloquy and the aside are lazy expedients, 
and that with a little extra labor the most com- 
plicated plot may be developed without resort to 
either. The passing of the aside has had an im- 
portant efl'ect on naturalness of acting. In speak- 
ing a hne audible to the audience but supposed to 
be unheard by the other characters on the stage, 
an actor was forced by the very nature of the 
speech to violate the illusion of the stage picture 
by stepping out of the frame, as it were, in order 
to take the audience into his confidence. Not until 
the aside was abolished did it become possible for 
an actor to follow the modern rule of seeming 
totally oblivious of his audience. 

There is less logical objection to the soliloquy, 
however; and I am inclined to think that the pres- 
ent avoidance of it is overstrained. Stage solilo- 
quies are of two kinds, which we may call for 



MODERN STAGE CONVENTIONS 89 

convenience the constructive and the reflective. By 
a constructive soHloquy we mean one introduced 
arbitrarily to explain the progress of the plot, like 
that at the beginning of the last act of Lady 
Windermere^s Fan, in which the heroine frankly 
tells the audience what she has been thinking and 
doing between the acts. By a reflective soliloquy 
we mean one like those of Hamlet, in which the 
audience is given merely a revelation of a train of 
personal thought or emotion, and in which the 
dramatist makes no utilitarian reference to the 
structure of the plot. The constructive soliloquy 
is as undesirable as the aside, because it forces the 
actor out of the stage picture in exactly the same 
way; but a good actor may easily read a reflective 
soliloquy without seeming in the least unnatural. 

Modern methods of lighting, as we have seen, 
have carried the actor away from the centre of the 
stage, so that now important business is often done 
far from the footlights. This tendency has led to 
further innovations. Actors now frequently turn 
their backs to the audience, — a thing unheard of 
before the advent of the Drama of Illusion ; and 
frequently, also, they do their most eff^ective work 
at moments when they have no lines to speak. 

But the present tendency toward naturalness of 
representment has, to some extent, exaggerated the 
importance of stage-management even at the ex- 
pense of acting. A successful play by Clyde Fitch 



90 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

usually owed its popularity, not so much to the 
excellence of the acting as to the careful attention 
of the author to the most minute details of the 
stage picture. Fitch could make an act out of a 
wedding or a funeral, a Cook's tour or a steamer 
deck, a bed or an automobile. The extraordinary 
cleverness and accuracy of his observation of those 
petty details that make life a thing of shreds and 
patches were all that distinguished his method from 
that of the melodramatist who makes a scene out 
of a buzz-saw or a waterfall, a locomotive or a 
ferryboat. Oftentimes the contemporary play- 
wright follows the method suggested by Mr. Crum- 
mies to Nicholas Nickleby, and builds his piece 
around " a real pump and two washing-tubs." At 
a certain moment in the second act of The Girl of 
the Golden West the wind-storm was the real actor 
in the scene, and the hero and the heroine were but 
mutes or audience to the act. 

This emphasis of stage illusion is fraught with 
certain dangers to the art of acting. In the mod- 
ern picture-play the lines themselves are often of 
such minor importance that the success or failure 
of the piece depends little on the reading of the 
words. Many young actors, therefore, cannot get 
that rigid training in the art of reading which 
could be secured in the stock companies of the gen- 
eration past. Poor reading is the one great weak- 
ness of contemporary acting. I can think of only 



MODERN STAGE CONVENTIONS 91 

one actor on the American stage to-day whose read- 
ing of both prose and verse is always faultless. 
I mean Mr. Otis Skinner, who secured his early 
training playing minor parts with actors of the 
" old school." It has become possible, under pres- 
ent conditions, for young actresses ignorant of elo- 
cution and unskilled in the first principles of im- 
personation to be exploited as stars merely because 
of their personal charm. A beautiful young 
woman, whether she can act or not, may easily 
appear " natural " in a society pl^y, especially 
written around her ; and the public, lured by a pair 
of eyes or a head of hair, is made as blind as love 
to the absence of histrionic art. When the great 
Madame Modjeska last appeared at the Fifth 
Avenue Theatre, presenting some of the most won- 
derful plays that the world has ever seen, she 
played to empty houses, while the New York public 
was flocking to see some new slip of a girl seem 
" natural " on the stage and appear pretty behind 
the picture-frame proscenium. 

IV 

A comparison of an Elizabethan audience 
with a theatre-full of people at the present day is, 
in many ways, disadvantageous to the latter. 
With our forefathers, theatre-going was an exer- 
cise in the lovely art of " making-believe." They 
were told that it was night and they forgot the 



92 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

sunlight ; their imaginations swept around Eng- 
land to the trampling of armored kings, or were 
whisked away at a word to that Bohemia which is 
a desert country by the sea; and while they looked 
upon a platform of bare boards, they breathed 
the sweet air of the Forest of Arden. They needed 
no scenery by Alma-Tadema to make them think 
themselves in Rome. " What country, friends, is 
this? ", asked Viola. " This is Illyria, lady." And 
the boys in the pit scented the keen, salt air and 
heard the surges crashing on the rocky shore. 

Nowadays elaborateness of stage illusion has 
made spoiled children of us all. We must have 
a doll with real hair, or else we cannot play at 
being mothers. We have been pampered with 
mechanical toys until we have lost the art of play- 
ing without them. Where have our imaginations 
gone, that we must have real rain upon the stage? 
Shall we clamor for real snow before long, that 
must be kept in cold storage against the spring 
season? A longing for concreteness has befogged 
our fantasy. Even so excellent an actor as Mr. 
Forbes-Robertson cannot read the great speech be- 
ginning, " Look here, upon this picture and on 
this," in which Hamlet obviously refers to two im- 
aginary portraits in his mind's eye, without point- 
ing successively to two absurd caricatures that are 
daubed upon the scenery. 

The theatre has grown older since the days when 



MODERN STAGE CONVENTIONS 93 

Burbage recited that same speech upon a bare 
platform ; but I am not entirely sure that it has 
grown wiser. We theatre-goers have come to man- 
hood and have put away childish things ; but there 
was a sweetness about the naivete of childhood that 
we can never quite regain. No longer do we dream 
ourselves in a garden of springtide blossoms ; we 
can only look upon canvas trees and paper flowers. 
No longer are we charmed away to that imagined 
spot where journeys end in lovers' meeting; we 
can only look upon love in a parlor and notice 
that the furniture is natural. No longer do we 
harkcn to the rich resonance of the Drama of 
Rhetoric; no longer do our minds kindle with the 
brilliant epigrams of the Drama of Conversation. 
Good reading is disappearing from the stage; and 
in its place we are left the devices of the stage- 
carpenter. 

It would be absurd to deny that modem stage- 
craft has made possible in the theatre many excel- 
lent effects that were not dreamt of in the phi- 
losophy of Shakespeare. Sir Arthur Pinero's 
plays are better made than those of the Elizabeth- 
ans, and in a narrow sense hold the mirror up to 
nature more successfully than theirs. But our 
latter-day fondness for natural representment has 
afflicted us with one tendency that the Elizabethans 
were luckily without. In our desire to imitate the 
actual facts of life, we sometimes become near- 



94 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

sighted and forget the larger truths that underlie 
them. We give our plays a definite date by found- 
ing them on passing fashions ; we make them of an 
age, not for all time. We discuss contemporary 
social problems on the stage instead of the eternal 
verities lodged deep in the general heart of man. 
We have outgrown our pristine simplicity, but we 
have not yet arrived at the age of wisdom. Per- 
haps when playgoers have progressed for another 
century or two, they may discard some of the trap- 
pings and the suits of our present drama, and be- 
come again like little children. 



ECONOMY OF ATTENTION IN THEATRICAL 
PERFORMANCES 



According to the late Herbert Spencer, the sole 
source of force in writing is an ability to economise 
the attention of the reader. The word should be 
a window to the thought and should transmit it as 
transparently as possible. He says, toward the 
beginning of his Philosophy of Style: 

A reader or listener has at each moment but a limited 
amount of mental power available. To recognise and in- 
terpret the symbols presented to him requires a part of 
this power; to arrange and combine the images suggested 
requires a further part; and only that part which remains 
can be used for realising the thought conveyed. Hence, 
the more time and attention it takes to receive and under- 
stand each sentence, the less time and attention can be 
given to the contained idea; and the less vividly will that 
idea be conveyed. 

Spencer drew his illustrations of this principle 
mainly from the literature of the library ; but its 
application is even more important in the literature 
of the stage. So many and so diverse are the ele- 
ments of a theatrical performance that, unless the 

95 



96 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

attention of the spectator is attracted at every nio-< 
ment to the main dramatic purpose of the scene, 
he will sit wide-eyed, like a child at a three-ring 
circus, with his mind fluttering from point to point 
and his interest dispersed and scattered. A per- 
fect theatrical performance must harmonise the 
work of many men. The dramatist, the actors 
main and minor, the stage-manager, the scene- 
painter, the costumer, the leader of the orchestra, 
must all contribute their separate talents to the 
production of a single work of art. It follows 
that a nice adjustment of parts, a discriminating 
subordination of minor elements to major, is ab- 
solutely necessary in order that the attention of the 
audience may be focused at every moment upon 
the central meaning of the scene. If the spectator 
looks at scenery when he should be listening to 
lines, if his attention Is startled by some unex- 
pected device of stage-management at a time when 
he ought to be looking at an actor's face, or if 
his mind is kept for a moment uncertain of the 
most emphatic feature of a scene, the main effect 
is lost and that part of the performance is a 
failure. 

It may be profitable to notice some of the tech- 
nical devices by which attention is economised in the 
theatre and the interest of the audience is thereby 
centred upon the main business of the moment. In 
particular it is important to observe how a scat- 



ECONOMY OF ATTENTION 97 

tering of attention is avoided; how, when many 
things are shown at once upon the stage, it is possi- 
ble to make an audience look at one and not observe 
the others. We shall consider the subject from the 
point of view of the dramatist, from that of the ac- 
tor, and from that of the stage-manager. 

II 

The dramatist, in writing, labors under a disad- 
vantage that is not suffered by the novelist. If a 
passage in a novel is not perfectly clear at the first 
glance, the reader may always turn back the pages 
and read the scene again; but on the stage a line 
once spoken can never be recalled. When, there- 
fore, an important point is to be set forth, the 
dramatist cannot afford to risk his clearness upon 
a single line. This is particularly true in the be- 
ginning of a play. When the curtain rises, there 
is always a fluttering of programs and a buzz 
of unfinished conversation. INIany spectators come 
in late and hide the stage from those behind them 
while they are taking off their wraps. Conse- 
quently, most dramatists, in the preliminary expo- 
sition that must always start a play, contrive to 
state every important fact at least three times: 
first, for the attentive ; second, for the intelligent ; 
and third, for the large mass that may have missed 
the first two statements. Of course, the method of 
presentment must be very deftly varied, in order 



98 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

that the artifice may not appear; but this simple 
rule of three is almost always practised. It was 
used with rare effect by Eugene Scribe, who, al- 
though he was too clever to be great, contributed 
more than any other writer of the nineteenth cen- 
tury to the science of making a modem play. 

In order that the attention of the audience may 
not be unduly distracted by any striking effect, 
the dramatist must always prepare for such an ef- 
fect in advance, and give the spectators an idea 
of what they may expect. The extraordinary nose 
of Cyrano de Bergerac is described at length by 
Ragueneau before the hero comes upon the stage. 
If the ugly-visaged poet should enter without this 
preliminary explanation, the whole effect would be 
lost. The spectators would nudge each other and 
whisper half aloud, " Look at his nose ! What is 
the matter with his face ? ", and would be less than 
half attentive to the lines. Before Lady Macbeth 
is shown walking in her sleep and wringing her 
hands that are sullied with the damned spot that 
all great Neptune's ocean could not wash away, 
her doctor and her waiting gentlewoman are sent 
to tell the audience of her " slumbery agitation." 
Thus, at the proper moment, the attention is fo- 
cused on the essential point instead of being al- 
lowed to lose itself in wonder. 

A logical development of this principle leads us 
to the axiom that a dramatist must never keep a 



ECONOMY OF ATTENTION 99 

secret from his audience, although this is one of the 
favorite devices of the novehst. Let us suppose 
for a moment that the spectators were not let into 
the secret of Hero's pretty plot, in Much Ado, to 
bring Beatrice and Benedick together. Suppose 
that, like the heroine and the hero, they were led to 
believe that each was truly in love with the other. 
The inevitable revelation of this error would pro- 
duce a shock of surprise that would utterly scatter 
their attention ; and while they were busy making 
over their former conception of the situation, they 
would have no eyes nor ears for what was going 
on upon the stage. In a novel, the true character 
of a hypocrite is often hidden until the book is 
nearly through : then, when the revelation comes, 
the reader has plenty of time to think back and 
see how deftly he has been deceived. But in a 
play, a rogue must be known to be a rogue at his 
first entrance. The other characters in the play 
may be kept in the dark until the last act, but the 
audience must know the secret all the time. In 
fact, any situation which shows a character suf- 
fering from a lack of such knowledge as the audi- 
ence holds secure always produces a telling effect 
upon the stage. The spectators are aware of lago's 
villainy and know of Desdcmona's innocence. 
The play would not be nearly so strong if, like 
Othello, they were kept ignorant of the truth. 
In order to economise attention, the dramatist 



100 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

must centre his interest in a few vividly drawn char- 
acters and give these a marked preponderance over 
the other parts. Many plays have failed because 
of over-elaborateness of detail. Ben Jonson's com- 
edy of Every Man in His Humour would at present 
be impossible upon the stage, for the simple reason 
that all the characters are so carefully drawn that 
the audience would not know in whom to be most 
interested. The plajj^ is all background and no 
foreground. The dramatist fails to say, " Of all 
these sixteen characters, you must listen most at- 
tentively to some special two or three " ; and, in 
consequence, the piece would require a constant 
effort of attention that no modern audience would 
be willing to bestow. Whatever may be said about 
the disadvantages of the so-called " star system " 
in the theatre, the fact remains that the greatest 
plays of the world — (Edipus King, Hamlet, As 
You Like It, Tartufe, Cyrano de Bergerac — have 
almost always been what are called " star plays." 
The " star system " has an obvious advantage from 
the point of view of the dramatist. When Ham- 
let enters, the spectators know that they must look 
at him; and their attention never wavers to the 
minor characters upon the stage. The play is thus 
an easy one to follow : attention is economised and 
no effect is lost. 

It is a wise plan to use famihar and conventional 
types to fill in the minor parts of a play. The 



ECONOMY OF ATTENTION lOl 

comic valet, the pretty and witty chambermaid, the 
ingenue, the pathetic old friend of the family, are 
so well known upon the stage that they spare the 
mental energy of the spectators and leave them 
greater vigor of attention to devote to the more 
original major characters. What is called " comic 
relief " has a similar value in resting the attention 
of the audience. After the spectators have been 
harrowed by Ophelia's madness, they must be di- 
verted by the humor of the grave-diggers in order 
that their susceptibilities may be made sufficiently 
fresh for the solemn scene of her funeral. 

We have seen that any sudden shock of surprise 
should be avoided in the theatre, because such a 
shock must inevitabl}' cause a scattering of atten- 
tion. It often happens that the strongest scenes 
of a play require the use of some physical acces- 
sory, — a screen in The School for Scandal, a 
horse in Shenandoah, a perfumed letter in Diplo- 
macy. In all such cases, the spectators must be 
familiarised beforehand with the accessory object, 
CO that when the climax comes they may devote all 
of their attention to the action that is accomplished 
with the object rather than to the object itself. 
In a quarrel scene, an actor could not suddenly 
draw a concealed weapon in order to threaten his 
antagonist. The spectators would stop to ask 
themselves how he happened to have the weapon 
by him without their knowing it; and this self-mut- 



102 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

tered question would deaden the effect of the scene. 
The denouement of Ibsen's Hedda Gahler requires 
that the two chief characters, Eilert Lovborg and 
Hedda Tesman, should die of pistol wounds. The 
pistols that are to be used in the catastrophe are 
mentioned and shown repeatedly throughout the 
early and middle scenes of the play ; so that when 
the last act comes, the audience thinks not of pistols, 
but of murder and suicide. A striking illustration 
of the same dramaturgic principle was shown in 
Mrs. Fiske's admirable performance of this play. 
The climax of the piece comes at the end of the 
penultimate act, when Hedda casts into the fire the 
manuscript of the book into which Eilert has put 
the great work of his life. The stove stands ready 
at the left of the stage; but when the culminating 
moment comes, the spectators must be made to for- 
get the stove in their horror at Hedda's wickedness. 
They must, therefore, be made familiar with the 
stove in the early part of the act. Ibsen realised 
this, and arranged that Hedda should call for some 
wood to be cast upon the fire at the beginning of 
the scene. In acting this incident, Mrs. Fiske 
kneeled before the stove in the very attitude that she 
was to assume later on when she committed the 
manuscript to the flames. The climax gained 
greatly in emphasis because of this device to secure 
economy of attention at the crucial moment. 



ECONOMY OF ATTENTION 103 



in 

In the Autobiography of Joseph Jefferson, that 
humorous and human and instructive book, there is 
a passage that illustrates admirably the bearing of 
this same principle of economy of attention upon 
the actor's art. In speaking of the joint perform- 
ances of his half-brother, Charles Burke, and the 
famous actor-manager, William E. Burton, Jeffer- 
son says: 

It was a rare treat to see Burton and Burke in the 
same play: they acted into each other's hands with the most 
perfect skill; there was no striving to outdo each other. 
If the scene required that for a time one should be promi- 
nent, the other would become the background of the picture, 
and so strengthen the general effect; by this method they 
produced a perfectly harmonious work. For instance, Burke 
would remain in repose, attentively listening while Burton 
was delivering some humorous speech. This would naturally 
act as a spell upon the audience, who became by this treat- 
ment absorbed in what Burton was saying, and having got 
the full force of the effect, they would burst forth in 
laughter or applause; then, by one accord, they became 
silent, intently listening to Burke's reply, which Burton was 
now strengthening by the same repose and attention. I 
have never seen this element in acting carried so far, or 
accomplished with such admirable results, not even upon the 
French stage, and I am convinced that the importance of 
it in reaching the best dramatic effects cannot be too highly 
estimated. It was this characteristic feature of the acting 
of these two great artists that always set the audience won- 
dering which was the better. The truth is there was no 
" better " about the matter. They were not horses running 
a race, hut artists painting a picture; it was not in their 



104 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

minds which should win, but how they could, by their joint 
efforts, produce a perfect work. 

I am afraid that this excellent method of team 
play is more honored in the breach than in the ob- 
servance among many of our eminent actors of the 
present time. When Richard Mansfield played 
the part of Brutus, he destroyed the nice balance of 
the quarrel scene with Cassius by attracting all of 
the attention of the audience to himself, whereas a 
right reading of the scene would demand a constant 
shifting of attention from one hero to the other. 
When Joseph Haworth spoke the great speech of 
Cassius beginning, " Come, Antony, and young 
Octavius, come ! ", he was shrouded in the shadow 
of the tent, while the lime-light fell full upon the 
form of Rrutus. This arrangement so distracted 
the audience from the true dramatic value of the 
scene that neither Mansfield's heroic carriage, nor 
his eye like Mars to threaten and command, nor 
the titanic resonance of his ventriloquial utterance, 
could atone for the mischief that was done. 

In an earlier paragraph, we noticed the way in 
which the " star system " may be used to advantage 
by the dramatist to economise the attention of the 
audience ; but it will be observed, on the other hand, 
that the same system is pernicious in its influence 
upon the actor. A performer who is accustomed 
to the centre of the stage often finds it difficult to 
keep himself in the background at moments when 



ECONOMY OF ATTENTION 105 

the scene should be dominated by other, and some- 
times lesser, actors. Artistic self-denial is one of 
the rarest of virtues. This is the reason why " all- 
star " performances are almost always bad. A 
famous player is cast for a minor part; and in his 
effort to exploit his talents, he violates the principle 
of economy of attention by attracting undue notice 
to a subordinate feature of the performance. 
That's villainous, and shows a most pitiful ambi- 
tion, as Hamlet truly says. A rare proof of the 
genius of the great Coquelin was given by his per- 
formances of Pere Duval and the Baron Scarpia in 
support of the Camille and Tosca of Mme. Sarah 
Bernhardt. These parts are both subordinate; 
and, in pla^-ing them, Coquelin so far succeeded 
in obliterating his own special talents that he never 
once distracted the attention of the audience from 
the acting of his fellow star. This was an artistic 
triumph worthy of ranking with the same actor's 
sweeping and enthralling performance of Cyrano 
de Bergerac, — perhaps the richest acting part in 
the history of the theatre. 

A story is. told of how Sir Henry Irving, many 
years ago, played the role of Joseph Surface at a 
special revival of The School for Scandal in which 
most of the other parts were filled by actors and 
actresses of the older generation, who attempted to 
recall for one performance the triumphs of their 
youth. Joseph Surface is a hypocrite and a vil- 



106 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

lain; but the youthful grace of Mr. Irving so 
charmed a lady in the stalls that she said she " could 
not bear to see those old unlovely people trying to 
get the better of that charming young man, Mr. 
Joseph." Something must have been wrong with 
the economy of her attention. 

The chief reason why mannerisms of walk or 
gesture or vocal intonation are objectionable in an 
actor is that they distract the attention of the audi- 
ence from the effect he is producing to his method 
of producing that effect. Mansfield's peculiar 
manner of pumping his voice from his diaphragm 
and Irving's corresponding system of ejaculating 
his phrases through his nose gave to the reading 
of those great artists a rich metallic resonance that 
was vibrant with effect ; but a person hearing either 
of those actors for the first time was often forced 
to expend so much of his attention in adjusting 
his ears to the novel method of voice production 
that he was unable for many minutes to fix his mind 
upon the more important business of the play. An 
actor without mannerisms, like the late Adolf von 
Sonnenthal, is able to make a more immediate ap- 
peal. 

IV 

At the first night of Mr. E. H. Sothern's Ham- 
let, in the fall of 1900, I had just settled back in 
my chair to listen to the reading of the soliloquy 



ECONOMY OF ATTENTION 107 

on suicide, when a woman behind me whispered to 
her neighbor, " Oh look ! There are two fireplaces 
in the room ! " My attention was distracted, and 
the soliloquy was spoiled ; but the fault lay with the 
stage-manager rather than with the woman who 
spoke the disconcerting words. \f Mr. Sothern 
was to recite his soliloquy gazing dreamily into a 
fire in the centre of the room, the stage-manager 
should have known enough to remove the large fire- 
place on the right of the stage. 

Mme. Sarah Bernhardt, when she acted Hamlet 
in London in 1899, introduced a novel and startling 
effect in the closet scene between the hero and his 
mother. On the wall, as usual, hung the counter- 
feit presentments of two brothers; and when the 
time came for the ghost of buried Denmark to ap- 
pear, he was suddenly seen standing luminous in 
the picture-frame which had contained his portrait. 
The effect was so unexpected that the audience 
could look at nothing else, and thus Hamlet and 
the queen failed to get their proper measure of 
attention. 

These two instances show that the necessity of 
economising the attention of an audience is just as 
important to the stage-manager as it is to the 
dramatist and the actor. In the main, it may be 
said that any unexpected innovation, any device of 
stage-management tliat Is by its nature startling, 
should be avoided in the crucial situations of a 



108 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

play. Professor Brander Matthews has given an 
interesting illustration of this principle in his essay 
on The Art of the Stage-Manager, which is in- 
cluded in his volume entitled Inquiries and Opinions. 
He says: 

The stage-manager must ever be on his guard against the 
danger of sacrificing the major to the minor, and of letting 
some little effect of slight value in itself interfere with the 
true interest of the play as a whole. At the first per- 
formance of Mr. Bronson Howard's Shenandoah, the open- 
ing act of which ends with the firing of the shot on Sumter, 
there was a wide window at the back of the set, so that the 
spectators could see the curving flight of the bomb and its 
final explosion above the doomed fort. Tlie scenic marvel 
had cost time and money to devise; but it was never visible 
after the first performance, because it drew attention to 
itself, as a mechanical effect, and so took off the minds of 
the audience from the Northern lover and the Southern girl, 
the Southern lover and the Northern girl, whose loves were 
suddenly sundered by the bursting of tliat fatal shell. At 
the second performance, the spectators did not see the shot, 
they only heard the dread report; and they were free to 
let their sympathy go forth to the young couples. 

Nowadays, perhaps, when the theatre-going pub- 
lic is more used to elaborate mechanism on the stage, 
this effect might be attempted without danger. It 
was owing to its novelty at the time that the device 
disrupted the attention of the spectators. 

But not only novel and startling stage effects 
should be avoided in the main dramatic moments 
of a play. Excessive magnificence and elaborate- 
ness of setting are just as distracting to the at- 



ECONOMY OF ATTENTION 109 

tention as the shock of a new and strange device. 
When The Merchant of Venice was revived at 
Dalj's Theatre some years ago, a scenic set of un- 
usual beauty was used for the final act. The gar- 
dens of Portia's palace were shadow^' with trees 
and dreamy with the dark of evening. Slowlj^ in 
the distance a round and yellow moon rose rolling, 
its beams rippling over the moving waters of a 
lake. There was a murmur of approbation in the 
audience ; and that murmur was just loud enough to 
deaden the lyric beauty of the lines in which Lo- 
renzo and Jessica gave expression to the spirit of 
the night. The audience could not look and listen 
at the self-same moment ; and Shakespeare was sac- 
rificed for a lime-light. A wise stage-manager, 
when he uses a set as magnificent, for example, as 
the memorable garden scene in Miss Viola Allen's 
production of Tzcelfth Night, will raise his cur- 
tain on an empty stage, to let the audience enjoy 
and even applaud the scenery before the actors 
enter. Then, when the lines are spoken, the spec- 
tators are ready and willing to lend them their 
ears. 

This point suggests a discussion of the advisa- 
bility of producing Shakespeare without scenery, 
in the very interesting manner that has been em- 
ployed in recent seasons by Mr. Ben Greet's com- 
pany of players. Leaving aside the argument that 
with a sceneless stage it is possible to perform all 



no THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

the incidents of the play in their original order, and 
thus give the story a greater narrative continuity, 
it may also be maintained that with a bare stage 
there are far fewer chances of dispersing the at- 
tention of the audience by attracting it to insignifi- 
cant details of setting. Certainly, the last act of 
the Merchant would be better without the mechani- 
cal moonrise than with it. But, unfortunately, the 
same argument for economy of attention works 
also in the contrary direction. We have been so 
long used to scenery in our theatres that a scene- 
less production requires a new adjustment of our 
minds to accept the unwonted convention ; and it 
may readily be asserted that this mental adjust- 
ment disperses more attention than would be scat- 
tered by elaborate stage effects. At Mr. Greet's 
first production of Twelfth Night in New York 
without change of scene, many people in the audi- 
ence could be heard whispering their opinions of 
the experiment, — a fact which shows that their 
attention was not fixed entirely upon the play itself. 
On the whole, it would probably be wisest too pro- 
duce Shakespeare with very simple scenery, in 
order, on the one hand, not to dim the imagination 
of the spectators by elaborate magnificence of set- 
ting, and, on the other, not to distract their minds 
by the unaccustomed conventions of a sceneless 
stage. 

What has been said of scenery may be applied 



ECONOMY OF ATTENTION 111 

also to the use of incidental music. So soon as such 
music becomes obtrusive, it distracts the attention 
from the business of the play : and it cannot be in- 
sisted on too often that in the theatre the play's 
the thing. But a running accompaniment of 
music, half-heard, half-guessed, that moves to the 
mood of the play, now swelling to a climax, now 
softening to a hush, may do much toward keeping 
the audience in tune with the emotional significance 
of the action. 

A perfect theatrical performance is the rarest 
of all works of art. I have seen several perfect 
statues and perfect pictures ; and I have read many 
perfect poems : but I have never seen a perfect per- 
formance in the theatre. I doubt if such a per- 
formance has ever been given, except, perhaps, in 
ancient Greece. But it is easy to imagine what its 
effect would be. It would rivet the attention 
throughout upon the essential purport of the play ; 
it would proceed from the beginning to the end 
without the slightest distraction ; and it would con- 
vey its message simply and immediately, like the 
sky at sunrise or the memorable murmur of the sea. 



VI 
EMPHASIS IN THE DRAMA 

By applying the negative principle of economy 
of attention, the dramatist may, as we have noticed, 
prevent his auditors at any moment from diverting 
their attention to the subsidiary features of the 
scene ; but it is necessary for him also to apply the 
positive principle of emphasis in order to force 
them to focus their attention on the one most im- 
portant detail of the matter in hand. The princi- 
ple of emphasis, which is applied in all the arts, is 
the principle whereby the artist contrives to throw 
into vivid relief those features of his work which 
incorporate the essence of the thing he has to say, 
while at the same time he gathers and groups within 
a scarcely noticed background those other features 
which merely contribute in a minor manner to the 
central purpose of his plan. This principle is, of 
course, especially important in the acted drama; 
and it may therefore be profitable to examine in 
detail some of the methods which dramatists em- 
ploy to make their points effectively and bring out 
the salient features of their plays. 

It is obviously easy to emphasise by position. 

112 



EMPHASIS IX THE DRAMA 113 

The last moments in any act are of necessity em- 
phatic because they are the last. During the in- 
termission, the minds of the spectators will natu- 
rall}' dwell upon the scene that has been presented 
to them most recently. If they think back toward 
the beginning of the act, they must first think 
through the concluding dialogue. This lends to 
curtain-falls a special importance of which our 
modem dramatists never fail to take advantage. 

It is interesting to remember that this simple 
form of emphasis by position was impossible in 
the Elizabethan theatre and was quite unknown 
to Shakespeare. His plays were produced on a 
platform without a curtain ; his actors had to make 
an exit at the end of every scene; and usually his 
plays were acted from beginning to end without 
any intermission. It was therefore impossible for 
him to bring his acts to an emphatic close by a 
clever curtain-fall. We have gained this ad- 
vantage only in recent times because of the im- 
proved ph^'sical conditions of our theatre. 

A few years ago it was customary for drama- 
tists to end every act with a bang that would re- 
verberate in the ears of the audience throughout 
the entr^-acte. Recently our playwrights have 
shown a tendency toward more quiet curtain-falls. 
The exquisite close of the first act of The Admira- 
ble Crichton was merely dreamfully suggestive of 
the past and future of the action ; and the second 



Hi THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

act ended pictoriallj, without a word. But 
whether a curtain-fall gains its effect actively or 
passively, it should, if possible, sum up the entire 
dramatic accomplishment of the act that it con- 
cludes and foreshadow the subsequent progress of 
the play. 

Likewise, the first moments in an act are of neces- 
sity emphatic because they are the first. After 
ttn intermission, the audience is prepared to watch 
with renewed eagerness the resumption of the ac- 
tion. The close of the third act of Beau BrumTnel 
makes the audience long expectantly for the open- 
ing of the fourth ; and whatever the dramatist may 
do after the raising of the curtain will be empha- 
sised because he does it first. An exception must 
be made of the opening act of a play. A drama- 
tist seldom sets forth anything of vital importance 
during the first ten minutes of his piece, because 
the action is likely to be interrupted by late-comers 
in the audience and other distractions incident to 
the early hour. But after an intermission, he is 
surer of attention, and may thrust important mat- 
ter into the openings of his acts. 

The last position, however, is more potent than 
the first. It is because of their finality that exit 
speeches are emphatic. It has become customary 
in the theatre to applaud a prominent actor nearly 
every time he leaves the stage; and this custom has 
made it necessary for the dramatist to precede an 



EMPHASIS IN THE DRAMA 115 

exit with some speech or action important enough 
to justify the interruption. Though Shakespeare 
and his contemporaries knew nothing of the cur- 
tain-fall, they at least understood fully the em- 
phasis of exit speeches. They even tagged them 
with rhyme to give them greater prominence. An 
actor likes to take advantage of his last chance to 
move an audience. When he leaves the stage, he 
wants at least to be remembered. 

In general it may be said that any pause in the 
action emphasises by position the speech or business 
that immediatel}' preceded it. This is true not 
only of the long pause at the end of an act : the 
point is illustrated just as well b}' an interruption 
of the play in mid-career, like Mrs. Fiske's omi- 
nous and oppressive minute of silence in the last act 
of Hedda Gnhler. The employment of pause as 
an aid to emphasis is of especial importance in the 
reading of lines. 

It is also customary in the drama to emphasise 
by proportion. More time is given to significant 
scenes than to dialogues of subsidiary interest. 
The strongest characters in a play are given most 
to say and do ; and the extent of the lines of the 
others is proportioned to their importance in the 
action. Hamlet sa^'s more and docs more than 
any other character in the tragedy in which he 
figures. This is as it should be ; but, on the other 
hand, Polonius, in the suiiif play, seems to receive 



116 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

greater emphasis by proportion than he really de- 
serves. The part is very fully written. Polonius 
is often on the stage, and talks incessantly when- 
ever he is present; but, after all, he is a man of 
small importance and fulfils a minor purpose in 
the plot. He is, therefore, falsely emphasised. 
That is why the part of Polonius is what French 
actors call a faux hon role, — a part that seems 
better than it is. 

In certain special cases, it is advisable to em- 
phasise a character by the ironical expedient of 
inverse proportion. Tartufe is so emphasised 
throughout the first two acts of the play that bears 
his name. Although he is withheld from the stage 
until the second scene of the third act, so much is 
said about him that we are made to feel fully his 
sinister dominance over the household of Orgon ; 
and at his first appearance, we already know him 
better than we know any of the other characters. 
In Victor Hugo's Marion Delorme, the indomitable 
will of Cardinal Richelieu is the mainspring of the 
entire action, and the audience is led to feel that he 
may at any moment enter upon the stage. But 
he is withheld until the very final moment of the 
drama, and even then is merely carried mute across 
the scene in a sedan-chair. Similarly, in Paul 
Heyse's Mary of Magdala, the supreme person 
who guides and controls the souls of all the strug- 
gling characters is never introduced upon the scene, 



EMPHASIS IN THE DRAMA 117 

but is suggested merely through his effect on Mary, 
Judas, and the other visible figures in the action. 

One of the easiest means of emphasis is the use 
of repetition ; and this is a favorite device with 
Henrik Ibsen, Certain catch-words, which incor- 
porate a recuri'ent mood of character or situation, 
are repeated over and over again throughout the 
course of his dialogue. The result is often similar 
to that attained by Wagner, in his music-dramas, 
through the iteration of a leit-motiv. Thus in 
Rosmersholm, whenever the action takes a turn that 
foreshadows the tragic catastrophe, allusion is 
made to the weird symbol of " white horses." Sim- 
ilarly, in Hedda Gahler — to take another instance 
— the emphasis of repetition is flung on certain 
leading phrases, — " Fancy that, Hedda ! " 
" Wavy-haired Thea," " Vine-leaves in his hair,'* 
and " People don't do such things ! " 

Another obvious means of emphasis in the drama 
is the use of antithesis, — an expedient employed 
in every art. The design of a play is not so much 
to expound characters as to contrast them. Peo- 
ple of varied views and opposing aims come nobly 
to the grapi)lc In a struggle that vitally concerns 
them ; and the tensity of the struggle will be aug- 
mented if the difference between the characters is 
marked. The comedies of Ben Jonson, which held 
the stage for two centuries after their author's 
death, owed their success largely to the fact that 



118 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

they presented a constant contrast of mutually 
foiling personalities. But the expedient of antith- 
esis is most effectively employed in the balance 
of scene against scene. What is known as " comic 
relief " is introduced in various plays, not only, 
as the phrase suggests, to rest the sensibilities of 
the audience, but also to emphasise the solemn 
scenes that come before and after it. It is for 
this purpose that Shakespeare, in Macbeth, intro- 
duces a low-comic soliloquy into the midst of a 
murder scene. Hamlet's ranting over the grave 
of Ophelia is made more emphatic by antithesis 
with the foolish banter that precedes it. 

This contrast of mood between scene and scene 
was unknown in ancient plays and in the imitations 
of them that flourished in the first great period of 
the French tragic stage. Although the ancient 
drama frequently violated the three unities of ac- 
tion, time, and place, it always preserved a fourth 
unity, which we may call unity of mood. It re- 
mained for the Spaniards and the Elizabethan 
English to grasp the dramatic value of the great 
antithesis between the humorous and the serious, 
the grotesque and the sublime, and to pass it on 
through Victor Hugo to the contemporary theatre. 

A further means of emphasis is, of course, the 
use of climax. This principle is at the basis of 
the familiar method of working up an entrance. 
My lady's coach is heard clattering behind the 



EMPHASIS IN THE DRAMA 119 

scenes. A servant rushes to the window and tells 
us that his mistress is alighting. There is a ring 
at the entrance; we hear the sound of footsteps 
in the hall. At last the door is thrown open, and 
my lady enters, greeted by a salvo of applause. 

A first entrance unannounced is rarely seen upon 
the modern stage. Shakespeare's King John 
opens very simply. The stage direction reads, 
" Enter King John, Queen Elinor, Pembroke, Es- 
sex, Salisbury and others, with Chatillon " ; and 
then the king speaks the opening line of the play. 
Yet when Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree revived this 
drama at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1899, he de- 
vised an elaborate opening to give a climacteric ef- 
fect to the entrance of the king. The curtain rose 
upon a vaulted room of state, impressive in its bare 
magnificence. A throne was set upon a dais to the 
left, and several noblemen in splendid costumes 
were lingering about the room. At the back was 
a Norman corridor approached by a flight of lofty 
steps which led upward from the level of the stage. 
There was a peal of trumpets from without, and 
soon to a stately music the royal guards marched 
upon the scene. They were followed by ladies 
with gorgeous dresses sweeping away in long 
trains borne by pretty pages, and great lords walk- 
ing with dignity to the music of the regal meas- 
ure. At last Mr. Tree appeared and stood for a 
moment at the top of the steps, every inch a king. 



120 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

Then he strode majestically to the dais, ascended to 
the throne, and turning about with measured ma- 
jesty spoke the first line of the play, some minutes 
after the raising of the curtain. 

But not only in the details of a drama is the 
use of climax necessary. The whole action should 
sweep upward in intensity until the highest point is 
reached. In the Shakespearean drama the high- 
est point came somewhat early in the piece, usu- 
ally in the third act of the five that Shakespeare 
wrote ; but in contemporary plays the climax is 
almost always placed at the end of the penultimate 
act, — the fourth act if there are five, and the 
third act if there are four. Nowadays the four- 
act form with a strong climax at the end of the 
third act seems to be most often used. This is 
the form, for instance, of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, 
of Mr. Jones's Mrs. Doners Defense, and of Sir 
Arthur Pinero's The Second Mrs. Tanqueray, The 
Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith, and The Gay Lord 
Quex. Eaeh begins with an act of exposition, fol- 
lowed by an act of rising interest. Then the whole 
action of the play rushes upward toward the cur- 
tain-fall of the third act, after which an act is 
used to bring the play to a terrible or a happy 
conclusion. 

A less familiar means of emphasis is that which 
owes its origin to surprise. This expedient must 
be used with great delicacy, because a sudden and 



EMPHASIS IN THE DRAMA 121 

startling shock of surprise is likely to diseconomise 
the attention of the spectators and flurry them 
out of a sane conception of the scene. But if a 
moment of surprise has been carefully led up to 
by anticipatory suggestion, it may be used to throw 
into sharp and sudden relief an important point in 
the play. No one knows that Cyrano de Bergerac 
is on the stage until he rises in the midst of the 
crowd in the Hotel de Bourgogne and shakes his 
cane at Montfleur}^ When Sir Herbert Tree 
played D'Artagnan in The MusTceteers, he emerged 
suddenly in the midst of a scene from a suit of old 
armor standing monumental at the back of the 
stage, — a deus ex machind to dominate the situa- 
tion. American playgoers will remember the dis- 
guise of Sherlock Holmes in the last act of Mr. 
Gillette's admirable melodrama. The appearance 
of the ghost in the closet scene of Hamlet is made 
emphatic by its unexpectedness. 

But perhaps the most effective form of em- 
phasis in the drama is emphasis by suspense. 
Wilkie Collinf, who with all his faults as a critic 
of life remair 5 the most skilful maker of plots in 
English fictioi!, used to say that the secret of hold- 
ing the attention of one's readers lay in the ability 
to do three th'ngs : " Make 'em laugh ; make 'em 
weep ; make 'em wait." There is no use in making 
an audience wait, however, unless you first give 
them an inkling of what they are waiting for. 



122 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

The dramatist must play with his spectators as we 
play with a kitten when we trail a ball of yam be- 
fore its eyes, only to snatch it away just as the 
kitten leaps for it. 

This method of emphasising by suspense gives 
force to what are known technically as the scenes a 
fa'ire of a drama. A scene a faire — the phrase 
was devised by Francisque Sarcey — is a scene 
late in a play that is demanded absolutely by the 
previous progress of the plot. The audience 
knows that the scene must come sooner or later, 
and if the element of suspense be ably managed, is 
made to long for it some time before it comes. In 
Hamlet, for instance, the killing of the king by 
the hero is of course a scene a faire. The audi- 
ence knows before the first act is over that such a 
scene is surely coming. When the king is caught 
praying in his closet and Hamlet stands over him 
with naked sword, the spectators think at last that 
the scene a faire has arrived; but Shakespeare 
" makes 'em wait " for two acts more, until the 
very ending of the play. 

In comedy the commonest scenes a faire are 
love scenes that the audience anticipates and longs 
to see. Perhaps the young folks are frequently 
on the stage, but the desired scene is prevented by 
the presence of other characters. Only after many 
movements are the lovers left alone; and when at 



EMPHASIS IN THE DRAMA 12S 

last the pretty moment comes, the audience glows 
with long-awaited enjoyment. 

It is always dangerous for a dramatist to omit 
a scene a faire, — to raise in the minds of his audi- 
ence an expectation that is never satisfied. Slieri- 
dan did this in The School for Scandal when he 
failed to introduce a love scene between Charles 
and JMaria, and Mr. Jones did it in Whitewashing 
Julia when he made the audience expect through- 
out the play a revelation of the truth about the 
puff-box and then left them disappointed in the 
end. But these cases are exceptional. In gen- 
eral it may be said that an unsatisfied suspense is no 
suspense at all. 

One of the most effective instances of suspense 
in the modern drama is offered in the opening of 
John Gabriel Borkman, one of Ibsen's later plays. 
Many years before the drama opens, the hero has 
been sent to jail for misusing the funds of a bank 
of which he was director. After five years of im- 
prisonment, he has been released, eight years before 
the opening of the play. During these eight 3'ears, 
he has lived alone in the great gallery of his house, 
never going forth even in the dark of night, and 
seeing only two people who come to call upon him. 
One of these, a young girl, sometimes plays for 
him on the piano while he paces moodily up and 
down the gallery. These facts are expounded to 



124 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

the audience in a dialogue between Mrs. Borkman 
and her sister that takes place in a lower room be- 
low Borknian's quarters ; and all the while, in the 
pauses of the conversation, the hero is heard walk- 
ing overhead, pacing incessantly up and down. As 
the act advances, the audience expects at any mo- 
ment that the hero will appear. The front door 
is thrown open ; two minor characters enter ; and 
still Borkman is heard walking up and down. 
There is more talk about him on the stage; the 
act is far advanced, and soon it seems that he must 
show himself. From the upper room is heard the 
music of the Dance of Death that his young girl 
friend is playing for him. Now to the dismal 
measures of the dance the dialogue on the stage 
swells to a climax. Borkman is still heard pacing 
in the gallery. And the curtain falls. Ten min- 
utes later the raising of the curtain discloses John 
Gabriel Borkman standing with his hands behind 
his back, looking at the girl who has been playing 
for him. The moment is trebly emphatic, — by 
position at the opening of an act, by surprise, 
and most of all by suspense. When the hero is at 
last discovered, the audience looks at him. 

Of course there are many minor means of em- 
phasis in the theatre, but most of these are artificial 
and mechanical. The proverbial lime-light is one 
of the most effective. The intensity of the dream 
scene in Sir Henry Irving's performance of The 



EMPHASIS IN THE DRAMA 125 

Bells was due largely to the way in which the single 
figure of Mathias was silhouetted by a ray of light 
against a shadowy and inscrutable background 
ominous with voices. 

In this materialistic age, actors even resort to 
blandishments of costume to give their parts a 
special emphasis. Our leading ladies are more 
richl}' clad than the minor members of their com- 
panies. Even the great Mansfield resorted in his 
performance of Brutus to the indefensible expedi- 
ent of changing his costume act by act and dress- 
ing always in exquisite and subtle colors, while 
the other Romans, Cassius included, wore the same 
togas of unaffected white throughout the play. 
This was a fault in emphasis. 

A novel and interesting device of emphasis in 
stage-direction was introduced by Mr. Forbes-Rob- 
ertson in his production of The Passing of the 
Third Floor Bach. This dramatic parable by Mr. 
Jerome K. Jerome deals with the moral regenera- 
tion of eleven people, who are living in a Blooms- 
bury boarding-house, through the personal influ- 
ence of a Passer-by, who is the Spirit of Love 
incarnate; and this eff'ect is accomplished in a suc- 
cession of dialogues, in which the Stranger talks 
at kngtli with one boarder after another. It is 
necessary, for reasons of reality, that in each of 
the dialogues the Passer-by and his interlocutor 
should be seated at their ease. It is also necessary. 



126 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

for reasons of effectiveness in presentation, that 
the faces of both parties to the conversation should 
be kept clearly' visible to the audience. In actual 
life, the two people Avould most naturally sit before 
a fire ; but if a fireplace should be set in either the 
right or the left wall of the stage and two actors 
should be seated in front of it, the face of one of 
them would be obscured from the audience. The 
producer therefore adopted the expedient of imag- 
ining a fireplace in the fourth wall of the room, — 
the wall that is supposed to stretch across the stage 
at the line of the footlights. A red-glow from 
the central lamps of the string of footlights was 
cast up over a brass railing such as usually bounds 
a hearth, and behind this, far forward in ^the di- 
rect centre of the stage, two chairs were drawn up 
for the use of the actors. The right wall showed 
a window opening on the street, the rear wall a 
door opening on an entrance hall, and the left wall 
a door opening on a room adjacent ; and in none of 
these could the fireplace have been logically set. 
The unusual device of stage-direction, therefore, 
contributed to the verisimilitude of the set as well 
as to the convenience of the action. The experi- 
ment was successful for the purposes of this par- 
ticular piece ; it did not seem to disrupt the atten- 
tion of the audience; and the question, therefore, 
is suggested whether it might not, in many other 
plays, be advantageous to make imaginary use of 
the invisible fourth wall. 



VII 
THE FOUR LEADING TYPES OF DRAMA 

I. TEAGEDY AKD MELODRAMA 

Tkagedy and melodrama are alike in this, — that 
each exhibits a set of characters struggling vainly 
to avert a predetermined doom ; but in this essential 
point thej differ, — that whereas the characters 
in melodrama are drifted to disaster in spite of 
themselves, the characters in tragedy go down to 
destruction because of themselves. In tragedy the 
characters determine and control the plot ; in melo- 
drama the plot determines and controls the charac- 
ters. The writer of melodrama initially imagines 
a stirring train of incidents, interesting and excit- 
ing in themselves, and af tenvard invents such char- 
acters as will readily accept the destiny that he has 
foreordained for them. The writer of tragedy, 
on the other hand, initially imagines certain char- 
acters inherently predestined to destruction because 
of what they are, and afterward invents such in- 
cidents as will reasonably result from what is wrong 
within them. 

It must be recognised at once that each of these 

127 



128 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

is a legitimate method for planning a serious play, 
and that by following either the one or the other, 
it is possible to make a truthful representation of 
life. For the ruinous events of life itself divide 
themselves into two classes — the melodramatic and 
the tragic — according as the element of chance 
or the element of character shows the upper hand 
in them. It would be melodramatic for a man to 
slip by accident into the Whirlpool Rapids and be 
drowned; but the drowning of Captain Webb in 
that tossing torrent was tragic, because his ambi- 
tion for preeminence as a swimmer bore evermore 
within itself the latent possibility of his failing in 
an uttermost stupendous effort. 

As Stevenson has said, in his Gossip on Romance, 
" The pleasure that we take in life is of two 
sorts, — the active and the passive. Now we are 
conscious of a great command over our destiny; 
anon we are lifted up by circumstance, as by a 
breaking wave, and dashed we know not how into 
the future." A good deal of what happens to us 
is brought upon us by the fact of what we are; 
the rest is drifted to us, uninvited, undeserved, 
upon the tides of chance. When disasters over- 
whelm us, the fault is sometimes in ourselves, but 
at other times is merely in our stars. Because so 
much of life is casual rather than causal, the thea- 
tre (whose purpose is to represent life truly) must 
always rely on melodrama as the most natural and 



FOUR LEADING TYPES OF DRAMA 129 

effective type of art for exhibiting some of its 
most interesting phases. There is therefore no 
logical reason whatsoever that melodrama should 
be held in disrepute, even by the most fastidious of 
critics. 

But, on the other hand, it is evident that trag- 
edy is inherently a higher type of art. The melo- 
dramatist exhibits merely what may happen ; the 
tragedist exhibits what must happen. All that we 
ask of the author of melodrama is a momentary 
plausibility'. Provided that his plot be not im- 
possible, no limits are imposed on his invention of 
mere incident : even his characters will not give 
him pause, since they themselves have been fash- 
ioned to fit the action. But of the author of trag- 
edy we demand an unquestionable inevitability : 
nothing may happen in his play which is not a log- 
ical result of the nature of his characters. Of the 
melodramatist we require merely the negative virtue 
that he shall not lie : of the tragedist we require the 
positive virtue that he shall reveal some phase of 
the absolute, eternal Truth. 

The vast difference between merely saying some- 
thing that is true and really saying something that 
gives a glimpse of the august and all-controlling 
Truth may be suggested by a verbal illustration. 
Suppose that, upon an evening which at sunset has 
been threatened with a storm, I observe the sky at 
midnight to be cloudless, and say, " The stars are 



ISO THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

shining still." Assuredly I shall be telling some- 
thing that is true ; but I shall not be giving in any 
way a revelation of the absolute. Consider now 
the aspect of this very same remark, as it occurs in 
the fourth act of John Webster's tragedy, The 
Duchess of Malfi. The Duchess, overwhelmed with 
despair, is talking to Bosola: 

Duchess. I'll go pray; — 

No, I'll go curse. 
Bosola O, fie! 

Duchess. I could curse the stars. 

Bosola. O, fearful. 
Duchess. And those three smiling seasons of the year 

Into a Russian winter: nay, the world 

To its first chaos. 
Bosola. Look you, the stars shine still. 

This brief sentence, which in the former instance 
was comparatively meaningless, here suddenly 
flashes on the awed imagination a vista of irrevoca- 
ble law. 

A similar difference exists between the august 
Truth of tragedy and the less revelatory truthful- 
ness of melodrama. To understand and to ex- 
pound the laws of life is a loftier task than merely 
to avoid misrepresenting them. For this reason, 
though melodrama has always abounded, true trag- 
edy has always been extremely rare. Nearly all 
the tragic plays in the history of the theatre have 
descended at certain moments into melodrama. 
Shakespeare's final version of Hamlet stands nearly 



FOUR LEADING TYPES OF DRAMA 131 

on the highest level; but here and there it still ex- 
hibits traces of that preexistent melodrama of the 
school of Thomas Kyd from which it was derived. 
Sophocles is trul}- tragic, because he affords a reve- 
lation of the absolute; but Euripides is for the 
most part melodramatic, because he contents him- 
self with imagining and projecting the merely 
possible. In our own age, Ibsen is the only au- 
thor who, consistent^, from play to play, com- 
mands catastrophes which are not only plausible 
but unavoidable. It is not strange, however, that 
the entire history of the drama should disclose very 
few masters of the tragic; for to envisage the in- 
evitable is to look within the very mind of God. 

II. COMEDY AND FARCE 

If we turn our attention to the merry-mooded 
drama, we shall discern a similar distinction be- 
tween comedy and farce. A comedy is a humorous 
play in which the actors dominate the action ; a 
farce is a humorous play in which the action domi- 
nates the actors. Pure comedy is the rarest of all 
types of drama ; because characters strong enough 
to determine and control a humorous plot almost 
always insist on fighting out their struggle to a 
serious issue, and thereby lift the action above the 
comic level. On the other hand, unless the charac- 
ters thus stiffen in their purposes, they usually 
allow the play to lapse to farce. Pure comedies. 



132 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

however, have now and then been fashioned, with- 
out admixture either of farce or of serious drama ; 
and of these Le Misanthrope of Mohere may be 
taken as a standard example. The work of the 
same master also affords many examples of pure 
farce, which never rises into comedy, — for in- 
stance, Le Medec'in Malgre Lui. Shakespeare 
nearly always associated the two types within the 
compass of a single humorous play, using comedy 
for his major plot and farce for his subsidiary inci- 
dents. Farce is decidedly the most irresponsible Y 
of all the types of drama. The plot exists for its 
own sake, and the dramatist need fulfil only two 
requirements in devising it : — first, he must be 
funny, and second, he must persuade his audience 
to accept his situations at least for the moment 
while they are being enacted. Beyond this latter 
requisite, he suffers no subservience to plausibility. 
Since he needs to be believed only for the moment, 
he is not obliged to limit himself to possibilities. 
But to compose a true comedy is a very serious 
task ; for in comedy the action must be not only pos- 
sible and plausible, but must be a necessary result 
of the nature of the characters. This is the reason 
why The School for Scandal is a greater accom- 
plishment than The Rivals, though the latter play 
is fully as funny as the former. The one is 
comedy, and the other merely farce. 



VIII 

THE MODERN SOCIAL DRAMA 

The modern social drama — or the problem 
play, as it is popularly called — did not come into 
existence till the fourth decade of the nineteenth 
century ; but in less than eighty years it has shown 
itself to be the fittest expression in dramaturgic 
terms of the spirit of the present age; and it is 
therefore being written, to the exclusion of almost 
every other type, by nearly all the contemporary 
dramatists of international importance. This type 
of drama, currently prevailing, is being continually 
impugned by a certain set of critics, and by an- 
other set continually defended. In especial, the 
morality of the modern social drama has been a 
theme for bitter conflict; and critics have been so 
busy calling Ibsen a corrupter of the mind or a 
great ethical teacher that they have not found 
leisure to consider the more general and less con- 
tentious questions of what the modern social drama 
really is, and of precisely on what ground its 
morality should be determined. It may be profit- 
able, therefore, to stand aloof from such discus- 
sion for a moment, in order to inquire calmly what 
it is all about. 

133 



134 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 



Although the modern social drama is sometimes 
comic in its mood — The Gay Lord Quex, for in- 
stance — its main development has been upon the 
serious side; and it may be criticised most clearly 
as a modern type of tragedy. In order, therefore, 
to understand its essential qualities, we must first 
consider somewhat carefully the nature of tragedy 
in general. The theme of all drama is, of course, 
a struggle of human wills ; and the special theme 
of tragic drama is a struggle necessarily fore- 
doomed to failure because the individual human 
will is pitted against opposing forces stronger than 
itself. Tragedy presents the spectacle of a human 
being shattering himself against insuperable ob- 
stacles. Thereby it awakens pity, because the 
hero cannot win, and terror, because the forces 
arrayed against him cannot lose. 

If we rapidly review the history of tragedy, we 
shall see that three types, and only three, have thus 
far been devised; and these types are to be distin- 
guished according to the nature of the forces set 
in opposition to the wills of the characters. In 
other words, the dramatic imagination of all hu- 
manity has thus far been able to conceive only 
three types of struggle which are necessarily fore- 
doomed to failure, — only three different varieties 
of forces so strong as to defeat inevitably any in- 



THE MODERN SOCIAL DRAMA 135 

dividual human being who comes into conflict with 
them. The first of these types was discovered by 
-^schylus and perfected by Sophocles; the second 
was discovered by Christopher Marlowe and per- 
fected by Shakespeare; and the third was discov- 
ered by Victor Hugo and perfected by Ibsen. 

The first type, which is represented by Greek 
tragedj', displays the individual in conflict with 
Fate, an inscrutable power dominating alike the 
actions of men and of gods. It is the God of the 
gods, — the destiny of which they are the instru- 
ments and ministers. Through irreverence, 
through vainglory, through disobedience, through 
weakness, the tragic hero becomes entangled in the 
meshes that Fate sets for the unwary ; he struggles 
and struggles to get free, but his efforts are neces- 
sarily of no avail. He has transgressed the law 
of laws, and he is therefore doomed to inevitable 
agony. Because of this superhuman aspect of the 
tragic struggle, the Greek drama was religious in 
tone, and stimulated in the spectator the reverent 
and lofty mood of awe. 

The second type of tragedy, which is represented 
by the great Elizabethan drama, displays the in- 
dividual foredoomed to failure, no longer because 
of the preponderant power of destiny, but because 
of certain defects inherent in his own nature. 
The Fate of the Greeks has become humanised 
and made subjective. Christopher Marlowe was 



136 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

the first of the world's dramatists thus to set the 
God of all the gods within the soul itself of the 
man who suffers and contends and dies. But he 
imagined only one phase of the new and epoch- 
making tragic theme that he discovered. The one 
thing that he accomplished was to depict the ruin 
of an heroic nature through an insatiable ambition 
for supremacy, doomed by its own vastitude to de- 
feat itself, — supremacy of conquest and dominion 
with Tamburlaine, supremacy of knowledge with 
Dr. Faustus, supremacy of wealth with Barabas, 
the Jew of Malta. Shakespeare, with his wider 
mind, presented many other phases of this new type 
of tragic theme. Macbeth is destroyed by vaulting 
ambition that o'erleaps itself; Hamlet is ruined by 
irresoluteness and contemplative procrastination. 
If Othello were not overti-ustful, if Lear were not 
decadent in senility, they would not be doomed to 
die in the conflict that confronts them. They fall 
self-ruined, self-destroyed. This second type of 
tragedy is less lofty and religious than the first; 
but it is more human, and therefore, to the specta- 
tor, more poignant. We learn more about God by 
watching the annihilation of an individual by Fate ; 
but we learn more about Man by watching the an- 
nihilation of an individual by himself. Greek trag- 
edy sends our souls through the invisible; but 
Ehzabethan tragedy answers, " Thou thyself art 
Heaven and Hell.'* 



THE MODERN SOCIAL DRAMA 137 

The third type of tragedy is represented by the 
modern social drama. In this the individual is 
displaj'ed in conflict with his environment ; and the 
drama deals with the mighty war between personal 
character and social conditions. The Greek hero 
struggles with the superhuman; the Elizabethan 
hero struggles with himself ; the modern hero strug- 
gles with the world. Dr. Stockmann, in Ibsen's 
An Enemy of the People, is perhaps the most de- 
finitive example of the type, although the play in 
which he appears is not, strictly speaking, a trag- 
edy. He says that he is the strongest man on 
earth because he stands most alone. On the one 
side are the legions of society ; on the other side a 
man. This is such stuff as modem plays are 
made of. 

Thus, whereas the Greeks religiously ascribed the 
source of all inevitable doom to divine foreordina- 
tion, and the Elizabethans poetically ascribed it to 
the weaknesses the human soul is heir to, the mod- 
ems prefer to ascribe it scientifically to the dissi- 
dence between the individual and his social environ- 
ment. With the Greeks the catastrophe of man 
was decreed by Fate; with the Elizabethans it was 
decreed by his own soul ; with us it is decreed by 
Mrs. Grundy. Heaven and Hell were once en- 
throned high above Olympus ; then, as with Mar- 
lowe's Mephistophilis, they were seated deep in 
every individual soul ; now at last they have been 



138 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

located in the prim parlor of the conventional dame 
next door. Obviously the modern type of trag- 
edy is inherently less religious than the Greek, 
since science has as yet induced no dwelling-place 
for God. It is also inherently less poetic than the 
Elizabethan, since sociological discussion demands 
the mood of prose. 

n 

Such being in general the theme and the aspect 
of the modern social drama, we may next consider 
briefly how it came into being. Like a great deal 
else in contemporary art, it could not possibly 
have been engendered before that tumultuous up- 
heaval of human thought which produced in his- 
tory the French Revolution and in literature the 
resurgence of romance. During the eighteenth 
century, both in England and in France, society 
was considered paramount and the individual sub- 
servient. Each man was believed to exist for the 
sake of the social mechanism of which he formed 
a part: the chain was the thing, — not its weakest, 
nor even its strongest, link. But the French Revo- 
lution and the cognate romantic revival in the arts 
unsettled this conservative belief, and made men 
wonder whether society, after all, did not exist 
solely for the sake of the individual. Early eight- 
eenth century literature is a polite and polished 
exaltation of society, and preaches that the ma- 



THE MODERN SOCIAL DRAMA 139 

jority is always right; early nineteenth century 
literature is a clamorous pjean of individualism, and 
preaches that the majority is always wrong. Con- 
sidering the modem social drama as a phase of 
history, we see at once that it is based upon the 
struggle between these two beliefs. It exhibits al- 
ways a conflict between the individual revolutionist 
and the communal conserv^atives, and expresses the 
growing tendency of these opposing forces to ad- 
just themselves to equilibrium. 

Thus considered, the modem social drama is 
seen to be inherently and necessarily the product 
and the expression of the nineteenth century. 
Through no other type of drama could the present 
age reveal itself so fully ; for the relation between 
the one and the many, in politics, in religion, In 
the daily round of life itself, has been, and still re- 
mains, the most important topic of our times. 
The paramount human problem of the last hun- 
dred years has been the great, as yet unanswered, 
question whether the strongest man on earth Is he 
who stands most alone or he who subserves the 
greatest good of the greatest number. Upon the 
struggle implicit in this question the modern drama 
necessarily is based, since the dramatist, in any pe- 
riod when the theatre is really alive, Is obliged to 
tell the people in the audience what they have them- 
selves been thinking. Those critics, therefore, 
have no ground to stand on who belittle the im- 



140 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

portance of the modem social drama and regard 
it as an arbitrary phase of art devised, for busi- 
ness reasons merely, by a handful of clever play- 
wrights. 

Although the third and modern type of tragedy 
has grown to be almost exclusively the property of 
realistic writers, it is interesting to recall that it 
was first introduced into the theatre of the world 
by the king of the romantics. It was Victor 
Hugo's Hernani, produced in 1830, which first ex- 
hibited a dramatic struggle between an individual 
and society at large. The hero is a bandit and an 
outlaw, and he is doomed to failure because of the 
superior power of organised society arrayed against 
him. So many minor victories were won at that 
famous premiere of Hernani that even Hugo's fol- 
lowers were too excited to perceive that he had 
given the drama a new subject and the theatre a 
new theme; but this epoch-making fact may now 
be clearly recognised in retrospect. Hernani, and 
all of Victor Hugo's subsequent dramas, dealt, 
however, with distant times and lands; and it was 
left to another great romantic, Alexander Dumas 
pere, to be the first to give the modem theme a 
modern setting. In his best play, Antony, which 
exhibits the struggle of a bastard to establish him- 
self in the so-called best society, Dumas brought 
the discussion home to his own country and his own 
period. In the hands of that extremely gifted 



THE MODERN SOCIAL DRAMA 141 

dramatist, Emile Augier, the new type of serious 
drama passed over into the possession of the real- 
ists, and so downward to the latter-day realistic 
dramatists of France and England, Germany and 
Scandinavia. The supreme and the most tj'pical 
creative figure of the entire period is, of course, 
the Norwegian Henrik Ibsen, who — such is the 
iron}' of progress — despised the romantics of 
1830, and frequently expressed a bitter scorn for 
those predecessors who discovered and developed 
the type of tragedy which he perfected. 

in 

We are now prepared to inquire more closely 
into the specific sort of subject which the modern 
social drama imposes on the dramatist. The exist- 
ence of any struggle between an individual and 
the conventions of society presupposes that the in- 
dividual is unconventional. If the hero were in ac- 
cord with society, there would be no conflict of 
contending forces : he must therefore be one of so- 
ciety's outlaws, or else there can be no play. In 
modern times, therefore, the serious drama has been 
forced to select as its leading figures men and 
women outcast and condemned by conventional so- 
ciety. It has dealt with courtesans (La Dame Aux 
Camelias), dcmi-mondaines (Le Demi-Mondc), err- 
ing wives (Frou-Fron), women with a past {lite 
Second Mrs. Tanqueray), free lovers (TJic No- 



142 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

torious Mrs. Ehbsmith), bastards {Antony; Le 
Fils Naturel), ex-convicts (John Gabriel Bork- 
man), people with ideas in advance of their time 
(Ghosts), and a host of other characters that are 
usually considered dangerous to society. In order 
that the dramatic struggle might be tense, the 
dramatists have been forced to strengthen the cases 
of their characters so as to suggest that, perhaps, 
in the special situations cited, the outcasts were 
right and society was wrong. Of course it would 
be impossible to base a play upon the thesis that, 
in a given conflict between the individual and so- 
ciety, society was indisputably right and the indi- 
vidual indubitably wrong ; because the essential ele- 
ment of struggle would be absent. Our modern 
dramatists, therefore, have been forced to deal with 
exceptional outcasts of society, — outcasts with 
whom the audience might justly sympathise in their 
conflict with convention. The task of finding such 
justifiable outcasts has of necessity narrowed the 
subject-matter of the modern drama. It would be 
hard, for instance, to make out a good case against 
society for the robber, the murderer, the anarchist. 
But it is comparatively easy to make out a good 
case for a man and a woman involved in some sex- 
ual relation which brings upon them the censure of 
society but which seems in itself its own excuse for 
being. Our modern serious dramatists have been 
driven, therefore, in the great majority of cases, 



THE MODERN SOCIAL DRAMA 143 

to deal almost exclusively with problems of sex. 

This necessity has pushed them upon dangerous 
ground. Man is, after all, a social animal. The 
necessity of maintaining tiie solidarity of the fam- 
ily — a necessity (as the late John Fiske luminously 
pointed out) due to the long period of infancy in 
man — has forced mankind to adopt certain social 
laws to regulate the interrelations of men and 
women. Any strong attempt to subvert these laws 
is dangerous not only to that tissue of convention 
called society but also to the development of the 
human race. And here we find our dramatists 
forced — first by the spirit of the times, which gives 
them their theme, and second by the nature of the 
dramatic art, which demands a special treatment of 
that theme — to hold a brief for certain men and 
women who have shuffled off the coil of those very 
social laws that man has devised, with his best 
wisdom, for the preservation of his race. And the 
question naturally follows: Is a drama that does 
this moral or immoral.'' 

But the philosophical basis for this question is 
usually not understood at all by those critics who 
presume to answer the question off-hand in a 
spasm of polemics. It is interesting, as an evi- 
dence of the shallowness of most contemporary 
dramatic criticism, to read over, in the course of 
Mr. Shaw's nimble essay on The Quintessence of 
Ibsenism, the collection which the author has made 



144 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

of the adverse notices of Ghosts which appeared in 
the London newspapers on the occasion of the first 
performance of the play in England. Unani- 
mously they commit the fallacy of condemning the 
piece as immoral because of the subject that it deals 
with. And, on the other hand, it must be recog- 
nised that most of the critical defenses of the same 
piece, and of other modern works of similar nature, 
have been based upon the identical fallacy, — that 
morality or immorality is a question of subject- 
matter. But either to condemn or to defend the 
morality of any work of art because of its material 
alone is merely a waste of words. There is no such 
thing, per se, as an immoral subject for a play: in 
the treatment of the subject, and only in the treat- 
ment, lies the basis for ethical judgment of the piece. 
Critics who condemn Ghosts because of its subject- 
matter might as well condemn Othello because the 
hero kills his wife — what a suggestion, look you, 
to carry into our homes ! Macbeth is not immoral, 
though it makes night hideous with murder. The 
greatest of all Greek dramas, CEdipus King, is in 
itself sufficient proof that morality is a thing 
apart from subject-matter; and Shelley's The 
Cenci is another case in point. The only way in 
which a play may be immoral is for it to cloud, in 
the spectator, the consciousness of those invariable 
laws of life which say to man " Thou shalt not " 
or " Thou shalt " ; and the one thing needful in 



THE MODERN SOCIAL DRAMA 145 

order that a drama may be moral is that the au- 
thor shall maintain throughout the piece a sane and 
truthful insight into the soundness or unsoundness 
of the relations between his characters. He must 
know when they are right and know when they are 
wrong, and must make clear to the audience the 
reasons for his judgments. He cannot be immoral 
unless he is untrue. To make us pity his char- 
acters when they are vile or love them when they 
are noxious, to invent excuses for them in situa- 
tions where they cannot be excused — in a single 
word, to lie about his characters — this is for the 
dramatist the one unpardonable sin. Consequently, 
the only sane course for a critic who wishes to 
maintain the thesis that Ghosts, or any other mod- 
ern play, is immoral, is not to hurl mud at it, but 
to prove by the sound processes of logic that the 
play tells lies about life; and the only sane way 
to defend such a piece is not to prate about the 
" moral lesson " the critic supposes that it teaches, 
but to prove logically that it tells the truth. 

The same test of truthfulness by which we dis- 
tinguish good workmanship from bad is the only 
test by which we may conclusively distinguish im- 
moral art from moral. Yet many of the contro- 
versial critics never calm down sufficiently to apply 
this test. Instead of arguing whether or not Ibsen 
tells the truth about Hedda Gabler, they quarrel 
with him or defend him for talking about her at 



146 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

all. It is as if zoologists who had assembled to 
determine the truth or falsity of some scientific 
theory concerning the anatomy of a reptile should 
waste all their time in contending whether or not the 
reptile was unclean. 

And even when they do apply the test of truth- 
fulness, many critics are troubled by a grave mis- 
conception that leads them into error. They make 
the mistake of applying generally to life certain 
ethical judgments that the dramatist means only to 
apply 'particularly to the special people in his play. 
The danger of this fallacy cannot be too strongly 
emphasised. It is not the business of the drama- 
tist to formulate general laws of conduct ; he leaves 
that to the social scientist, the ethical philosopher, 
the religious preacher. His business is merely to 
tell the truth about certain special characters in- 
volved in certain special situations. If the char- 
acters and the situations be abnormal, the drama- 
tist must recognise that fact in judging them; and 
it is not just for the critic to apply to ordinar}^ 
people in the ordinary situations of life a judgment 
thus conditioned. The question in La Dame Aux 
Camelias is not whether the class of women which 
Marguerite Gautier represents is generally esti- 
mable, but whether a particular woman of that class, 
set in certain special circumstances, was not worthy 
of sympathy. The question in A DolVs House is 
not whether any woman should forsake her hus- 



THE MODERN SOCIAL DRAMA u? 

band and children when she happens to feel like it, 
but Avhether a particular woman, Nora, living un- 
der special conditions with a certain kind of hus- 
band, Torwald, really did deem herself justified in 
leaving her doll's home, perhaps forever. The 
ethics of any play should be determined, not ex- 
ternally, but within the limits of the play itself. 
And yet our modern social dramatists are persist- 
entl\' misjudged. We hear talk of the moral teach- 
ing of Ibsen, — as if, instead of being a maker of 
plays, he had been a maker of golden rules. But 
Mr. Shaw came nearer to the truth with his famous 
paradox that the only golden rule in Ibsen's 
dramas is that there is no golden rule. 

It must, however, be admitted that the drama- 
tists themselves are not entirely guiltless of this 
current critical misconception. Most of them hap- 
pen to be realists, and in devising their situations 
they aim to be narrowly natural as well as broadly 
true. The result is that the circumstances of their 
plays have an ordinary look which makes them 
seem simple transcripts of everyday life instead of 
special studies of life under peculiar conditions. 
Consequently the audience, and even the critic, is 
tempted to judge life In terms of the play instead 
of judging the play in terms of life. Thus falsely 
judged, The Wild Duck (to take an emphatic in- 
stance) is outrageously innnoral, although it nnist 
bo judged moral by the philosophic critic who 



148 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

questions only whether or not Ibsen told the truth 
about the particular people involved in its depress- 
ing story. The deeper question remains: Was 
Ibsen justified in writing a play which was true 
and therefore moral, but which necessarily would 
have an immoral effect on nine spectators out of 
every ten, because they would instinctively make a 
hasty and false generalisation from the exceptional 
and very particular ethics implicit in the story? 

For it must be bravely recognised that any state- 
ment of truth which is so framed as to be falsely 
understood conveys a lie. If the dramatist says 
quite truly, " This particular leaf is sere and yel- 
low," and if the audience quite falsely understands 
him to say, " All leaves are sere and yellow," the 
gigantic lie has illogically been conveyed that the 
world is ever windy with autumn, that spring is 
but a lyric dream, and summer an illusion. The 
modern social drama, even when it is most truthful 
within its own limits, is by its very nature liable to 
just this sort of illogical conveyance of a lie. It 
sets forth a struggle between a radical exception 
and a conservative rule; and the audience is likely 
to forget that the exception is merely an exception, 
and to infer that it is greater than the rule. Such 
an inference, being untrue, is immoral; and in so 
far as a dramatist aids and abets it, he must be 
judged dangerous to the theatre-going public. 

Whenever, then, it becomes important to deter- 



THE MODERN SOCIAL DRAMA 149 

mine whetlier a new play of the modem social type 
is moral or immoral, the critic should decide first 
whether the author tells lies specifically about any 
of the people in his story, and second, provided 
that the playwright passes the first test success- 
fully, whether he allures the audience to generalise 
falsely in regard to life at large from the specific 
circumstances of his play. These two questions 
are the only ones that need to be decided. This is 
the crux of the whole matter. And it has been 
the purpose of the present chapter merely to estab- 
lish this one point by historical and philosophic 
criticism, and thus to clear the ground for subse- 
quent discussion. 



OTHER PRINCIPLES OF DRAMATIC 
CRITICISM 



OTHER PRINCIPLES 
OF DRAMATIC CRITICISM 



THE PUBLIC AND THE DRAMATIST 

No other artist is so little appreciated by the 
public that enjoys his work, or is granted so little 
studious consideration from the critically minded, 
as the dramatist. Other artists, like the novelist, 
the painter, the sculptor, or the actor, appeal di- 
rectly to the public and the critics ; nothing stands 
between their finished work and the minds that 
contemplate it. A person reading a novel by Mr. 
Howells, or looking at a statue by Saint-Gaudens 
or a picture by Mr. Sargent, may see exactly what 
the artist has done and what he has not, and may 
appreciate his work accordingly. But when the 
dramatist has completed his play, he does not de- 
liver it directly to the public ; he delivers it only in- 
directly, through the medial interpretation of many 
other artists, — the actor, the stage-director, the 
scene-painter, and still others of whom the public 
seldom hears. If any of these other and medial 

153 



154 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

artists fails to convey the message that the drama- 
tist intended, the dramatist will fail of his intention, 
though the fault is not his own. None of the gen- 
eral public, and few of the critics, will discern what 
the dramatist had in mind, so completely may his 
creative thought be clouded by inadequate inter- 
pretation. 

The dramatist is obviously at the mercy of his ac- 
tors. His most delicate love scene may be spoiled 
irrevocably by an actor incapable of profound 
emotion daintily expressed ; his most imaginative 
creation of a hard and cruel character may be ren- 
dered unappreciable by an actor of too persuasive 
charm. And, on the other hand, the puppets of a 
dramatist with very little gift for characterisation 
may sometimes be lifted into life by gifted actors 
and produce upon the public a greater impression 
than the characters of a better dramatist less skil- 
fully portrayed. It is, therefore, very difficult to 
determine whether the dramatist has imagined more 
or less than the particular semblance of humanity 
exhibited by the actor on the stage. Othello, as 
portrayed by Signer Novelli, is a man devoid of 
dignity and majesty, a creature intensely animal 
and nervously impulsive; and if we had never read 
the play, or seen other performances of it, we 
should probably deny to Shakespeare the credit 
due for one of his most grand conceptions. On 
the other hand, when we witness Mr. Warfield's 



THE PUBLIC AND THE DRAMATIST 155 

beautiful and truthful performance of The Music 
Master, we are tempted not to notice that the play 
itself is faulty in structure, untrue in character, 
and obnoxiously sentimental in tone. Because Mr. 
Warfield, by the sheer power of his histrionic 
genius, has lifted sentimentality into sentiment and 
conventional theatricism into living truth, we are 
tempted to give to Mr. Charles Klein the credit 
for having written a very good play instead of a 
very bad one. 

Only to a slightly less extent is the dramatist at 
the mercy of his stage-director. Mrs. Rida John- 
son Young's silly play called Brown of Harvard 
was made worth seeing by the genius of Mr. Henry 
Miller as a producer. By sheer visual imagination 
in the setting and the handling of the stage, es- 
pecially in the first act and the last, Mr. IVIiller con- 
trived to endow the author's shallow fabric with the 
semblance of reality. On the other hand, ]\Ir. 
Richard Walton Tully's play, The Rose of the 
Rancho, was spoiled by the cleverest stage-director 
of our day. Mr. TuUy must, originally, have had 
a story in his mind; but what that story was could 
not be guessed from witnessing the play. It was 
utterly buried under an atmosphere of at least 
thirty pounds to the square inch, which Mr. Be- 
lasco chose to impose upon it. With the stage- 
director standing tiius, for benefit or hindrance, 
between the author and the audience, how is the 



156 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

public to appreciate what the dramatist himself has, 
or has not, done? 

An occasion is remembered in theatric circles 
when, at the tensest moment in the first-night pres- 
entation of a play, the leading actress, entering 
down a stairway, tripped and fell sprawling. 
Thus a moment which the dramatist intended to be 
hushed and breathless with suspense was made over- 
whelmingly ridiculous. A cat once caused the fail- 
ure of a play by appearing unexpectedly upon the 
stage during the most important scene and walking 
foolishly about. A dramatist who has spent many 
months devising a melodrama which is dependent 
for its effect at certain moments on the way in 
which the stage is lighted may have his play sent 
suddenly to failure at any of those moments if the 
stage-electrician turns the lights incongruously 
high or low. These instances are merely trivial, 
but they serve to emphasise the point that so much 
stands between the dramatist and the audience that 
it is sometimes difficult even for a careful critic to 
appreciate exactly what the dramatist intended. 

And the general public, at least in present-day 
America, never makes the effort to distinguish the 
intention of the dramatist from the interpretation 
it receives from the actors and (to a less extent) 
the stage-director. The people who support the 
theatre see and estimate the work of the interpre- 
tative artists only; they do not see in itself and 



THE PUBLIC AND THE DRAMATIST 157 

estimate for its own sake the work of the creative 
artist whose imaginings are being represented well 
or badly. The public in America goes to see ac- 
tors; it seldom goes to see a play. If the average 
theatre-goer has liked a leading actor in one piece, 
he will go to see that actor in the next piece in 
which he is advertised to appear. But very, very 
rarely will he go to see a new play by a certain 
author merely because he has liked the last play by 
the same author. Indeed, the chances are that he 
will not even know that the two plays have been 
written by the same dramatist. Bronson Howard 
once told me that he was very sure that not more 
than one person in ten out of all the people who had 
seen Shenandoah knew who wrote the play. And 
I hardly think that a larger proportion of the peo- 
ple who have seen both Mr. Willard in The Pro- 
fessor's Love Story and Miss Barrymore in Alice- 
S'lt-hy-the-F ire could tell you, if you should ask 
them, that the former play was written by the au- 
thor of the latter. How many people who remem- 
ber vividly Sir Henry Irving's performance of 
The Story of Waterloo could tell you who wrote 
the little piece? If you should ask them who 
wrote the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, they 
■would answer you at once. Yet The Story of 
Waterloo was written by the author of those same 
detective stories. 

The general public seldoms knows, and almost 



158 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

never cares, who wrote a play. What it knows, 
and what it cares about primarily, is who is acting 
in it. Shakespearean dramas are the only plays 
that the public will go to see for the author's sake 
alone, regardless of the actors. It will go to see 
a bad performance of a play by Shakespeare, be- 
cause, after all, it is seeing Shakespeare : it will not 
go to see a bad performance of a play by Sir 
Arthur Pinero, merely because, after all, it is see- 
ing Pinero. The extraordinary success of The 
Master Builder, when it was presented in New York 
by Mme. Nazimova, is an evidence of this. The 
public that filled the coffers of the Bijou Theatre 
was paying its money not so much to see a play by 
the author of A DolVs House and Hedda Gabler as 
to see a performance by a clever and tricky actress 
of alluring personality, who was better advertised 
and, to the average theatre-goer, better known than 
Henrik Ibsen. 

Since the public at large is much more interested 
in actors than it is in dramatists, and since the first- 
night critics of the daily newspapers write neces- 
sarily for the public at large, they usually devote 
most of their attention to criticising actors rather 
than to criticising dramatists. Hence the general 
theatre-goer is seldom aided, even by the profes- 
sional interpreters of theatric art, to arrive at an 
understanding and appreciation, for its own sake, 
of that share in the entire artistic production which 



THE PUBLIC AND THE DRAMATIST 159 

belongs to the dramatist and the dramatist alone. 

For, in present-day America at least, production 
in the theatre is the dramatist's sole means of pub- 
lication, his only medium for conveying to the pub- 
lic those truths of life he wishes to express. Very 
few plays are printed nowadays, and those few are 
rarely read: seldom, therefore, do they receive as 
careful critical consideration as even third-class 
novels. The late Clyde Fitch printed The Girl 
mth the Green Eyes. The third act of that play 
exhibits a very wonderful and searching study of 
feminine jealousy. But who has bothered to read 
it, and what accredited book-reviewer has troubled 
himself to accord it the notice it deserves.'' It is 
safe to say that that remarkable third act is re- 
membered only by people who saw it acted in the 
theatre. Since, therefore, speaking broadly, the 
dramatist can publish his work only through pro- 
duction, it is only through attending plays and 
studying what lies beneath the acting and behind 
the presentation that even the most well-intentioned 
critic of contemporary drama can discover what our 
dramatists are driving at. 

The great misfortune of this condition of affairs 
is that the failure of a play as a business proposi- 
tion cuts off suddenly and finally the dramatist's 
sole opportunity for publishing his thought, even 
though the failure may be due to any one of many 
causes other than incompetence on the part of the 



160 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

dramatist. A very good play may fail because of 
bad acting or crude production, or merely because 
it has been brought out at the wrong time of the 
3'^ear or has opened in the wrong sort of city. 
Sheridan's Rivals, as everybody knows, failed when 
it was first presented. But when once a play has 
failed at the present day, it is almost impossible 
for the dramatist to persuade any manager to un- 
dertake a second presentation of it. Whether good 
or bad, the play is killed, and the unfortunate 
dramatist is silenced until his next play is granted 
a hearing. 



II 



DRAMATIC ART AND THE THEATRE BUSI- 
NESS 

Akt makes things which need to be distributed; 
business distributes things which have been made: 
and each of the arts is therefore necessarily ac- 
companied by a business, whose special purpose is 
to distribute the products of that art. Thus, a 
very necessary relation exists between the painter 
and the picture-dealer, or between the writer and 
the publisher of books. In either case, the busi- 
ness man earns his living by exploiting the prod- 
ucts of the artist, and the artist earns his living 
by bringing his goods to the market which has 
been opened by the industry of the business man. 
The relation between the two is one of mutual as- 
sistance; yet the spheres of their labors are quite 
distinct, and each must work in accordance with a 
set of laws which have no immediate bearing upon 
the activities of the otlier. The artist must obey 
the laws of his art, as they are revealed by his own 
impulses and interpreted by constructive criticism ; 
but of these laws the business man ma}', without 
prejudice to his efficiency, be largely ignorant. On 

161 



162 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

the other hand, the business man must do his work 
in accordance with the laws of economics, — a sci- 
ence of which artists ordinarily know very little. 
Business is, of necessity, controlled by the great 
economic law of supply and demand. Of the prac- 
tical workings of this law the business man is in 
a position to know much more than the artist ; and 
the latter must always be greatly influenced by the 
former in deciding as to what he shall make and 
how he shall make it. This influence of the pub- 
lisher, the dealer, the business manager, is nearly 
always beneficial, because it helps- the artist to avoid 
a waste of work and to conserve and concentrate 
his energies ; yet frequently the mind of the maker 
desires to escape from it, and there is scarcely an 
artist worth his salt who has not at some moments, 
with the zest of truant joy, made things which 
were not for sale. In nearly all the arts it is pos- 
sible to secede at will from all allegiance to the 
business which is based upon them ; and Raphael 
may write a century of sonnets, or Dante paint a 
picture of an angel, without considering the pub- 
lisher or picture-dealer. But there is one of the 
arts — the art of the drama — which can never 
be disassociated from its concomitant business — 
the business of the theatre. It is impossible to 
imagine a man making anything which might 
justly be called a play merely to please himself 
and with no thought whatever of pleasing also an 



ART AND THE THEATRE BUSINESS l63 

audience of others bj- presenting it before them 
with actors on a stage. But the mere existence of 
a theatre, a company of actors, an audience assem- 
bled, necessitates an economic organisation and 
presupposes a business manager ; and this business 
manager, who sets the play before the public and 
attracts the public to the play, must necessarily 
exert a potent influence over the playwright. The 
onlj'' way in which a dramatist may free himself 
from this influence is by managing his own com- 
pany, like ]\Ioliere, or by conducting his own thea- 
tre, like Shakespeare. Onh' b}' assuming himself 
the functions of the manager can the dramatist 
escape from him. In all ages, therefore, the 
dramatist has been forced to confront two sets of 
problems rather than one. He has been obliged 
to study and to follow not only the technical laws 
of the dramatic art but also the commercial laws of 
the theatre business. And whereas, in the case of 
the other arts, the student may consider the painter 
and ignore the picture-dealer, or analyse the mind 
of the novelist without analysing that of his pub- 
lisher, the student of the drama in any age must 
always take account of the manager, and cannot 
avoid consideration of the economic organisation 
of the theatre in that age. Those who are most 
familiar with the dramatic and poetic art of Chris- 
topher Marlowe and the histrionic art of Edward 
AUeyn are the least likely to underestimate the im- 



164 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

portant influence which was exerted on the early 
EUzabethan drama by the ilhterate but crafty and 
enterprising manager of these great artists, PhiHp 
Henslowe. Students of the Queen Anne period 
may read the comedies of Congreve, but they must 
also read the autobiography of Colley Gibber, the 
actor-manager of the Theatre Royal. And the 
critic who considers the drama of to-day must often 
turn from problems of art to problems of eco- 
nomics, and seek for the root of certain evils not in 
the technical methods of the dramatists but in the 
business methods of the managers. 

At the present time, for instance, the dramatic 
art in America is suffering from a very unusual 
economic condition, which is unsound from the busi- 
ness standpoint, and which is likely, in the long 
run, to weary and to alienate the more thought- 
ful class of theatre-goers. This condition may be 
indicated by the one word, — over-production. 
Some years ago, when the theatre trust was or- 
ganised, its leaders perceived that the surest way 
to win a monopoly of the theatre business was to 
get control of the leading theatre-buildings 
throughout the country and then refuse to house 
in them the productions of any independent man- 
ager who opposed them. By this procedure on 
the part of the theatre trust, the few managers 
who maintained their independence were forced to 
build theatres in those cities where they wished 



ART AXD THE THEATRE BUSINESS l65 

their attractions to appear. AVhen, a few ^cars 
later, the organised opposition to the original thea- 
tre trust grew to such dimensions as to become in 
fact a second trust, it could carry on its campaign 
only by building a new chain of theatres to house 
its productions in those cities whose already exist- 
ing theatres were in the hands of the original syn- 
dicate. As a result of this warfare between the 
two trusts, nearly all the chief cities of the country 
are now saddled with more theatre-buildings than 
they can naturally and easily support. Two thea- 
tres stand side by side in a town whose theatre- 
going population warrants only one; and there 
are three theatres in a city whose inhabitants desire 
only two. In New York itself this condition is 
even more exaggerated. Nearly every season some 
of the minor producing managers shift their 
allegiance from one trust to the other; and since 
they seldom seem to know very far in advance just 
where they will stand when they may wish to make 
their next production in New York, the only way 
in which they can assure themselves of a Broad- 
way booking is to build and hold a theatre of their 
own. Hence, in the last few years, there has been 
an epidemic of theatre building in New York. 
And this, it should be carefully observed, has re- 
sulted from a false economic condition ; for new 
theatres have been built, not in order to supply a 
natural demand from the theatre-going population, 



166 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

but in defiance of tlie limits imposed by that de- 
mand. 

A theatre-building is a great expense to its 
owners. It always occupies land in one of the 
most costly sections of a city ; and in New York 
this consideration is of especial importance. The 
building itself represents a large investment. 
These two items alone make it ruinous for the 
owners to let the building stand idle for any 
lengthy period. They must keep it open as many 
weeks as possible throughout the year; and if play 
after play fails upon its stage, they must still seek 
other entertainments to attract sufficient money to 
cover the otherwise dead loss of the rent. Hence 
there exists at present in America a false demand 
for plays, — a demand, that is to say, which is oc- 
casioned not by the natural need of the theatre- 
going population but by the frantic need on the 
part of warring managers to keep their theatres 
open. It is, of course, impossible to find enough 
first-class plays to meet this fictitious demand; and 
the managers are therefore obliged to buy up 
quantities of second-class plays, which they know 
to be inferior and which they hardly expect the 
public to approve, because it will cost them less to 
present these inferior attractions to a small business 
than it would cost them to shut down some of their 
superfluous theatres. 

We are thus confronted with the anomalous con- 



ART AND THE THEATRE BUSINESS l67 

dition of a business man offering for sale, at the 
regular price, goods which he knows to be inferior, 
because he thinks that there are just enough cus- 
tomers available who are sufficiently uncritical not 
to detect the cheat. Thereby he hopes to cover the 
rent of an edifice which he has built, in defiance of 
sound economic principles, in a community that is 
not prepared to support it throughout the year. 
No very deep knowledge of economics is neces- 
sary to perceive that this must become, in the long 
run, a ruinous business policy. Too many thea- 
tres showing too many plays too many months in 
the year cannot finally make money; and this 
falsity in the economic situation reacts against the 
dramatic art itself and against the public's ap- 
preciation of that art. Good work suffers by the 
constant accompaniment of bad work which is ad- 
vertised in exactly the same phrases ; and the public, 
which is forced to see five bad plays in order to find 
one good one, grows weary and loses faith. The 
way to improve our dramatic art is to reform the 
economics of our theatre business. We should pro- 
duce fewer plays, and better ones. We should 
seek by scientific investigation to determine just 
how many theatres our cities can support, and how 
many weeks in the year they may legitimately be 
expected to su})j)ort them. Having thus de- 
termined the real demand for plays that comes 
from the theatre-going population, the managers 



168 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

should then bestir themselves to secure sufficient 
good plays to satisfy that demand. That, surely, 
is the limit of sound and legitimate business. The 
arbitrary creation of a further, false demand, and 
the feverish grasping at a fictitious supply, are 
evidences of unsound economic methods, which are 
certain, in the long run, to fail. 



Ill 

THE HAPPY ENDING IN THE THEATRE 

The question whether or not a given play should 
have a so-called happy ending is one that requires 
more thorough consideration than is usually ac- 
corded to it. It is nearly always discussed from 
one point of view, and one only, — that of the box- 
office ; but the experience of ages goes to show 
that it cannot rightly be decided, even as a mat- 
ter of business expediency, without being consid- 
ered also from two other points of view, — that of 
art, and that of human interest. For in the long 
run, the plays that pay the best are those in which 
a self-respecting art is employed to satisfy the 
human longing of the audience. 

When we look at the matter from the point of 
view of art, we notice first of all that in any ques- 
tion of an ending, whether happy or unhappy, art 
is doomed to satisfy itself and is denied the re- 
course of an appeal to nature. Life itself pre- 
sents a continuous sequence of causation, stretch- 
ing on ; and nature abhors an ending as it abhors 
a vacuum. If experience teaches us anything at 
all, it teaches us that nothing in life is terminal, 

169 



170 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

nothing is conclusive. Marriage is not an end, 
as we presume in books; but rather a beginning. 
Not even death is final. We find our graves not 
in the ground but in the hearts of our survivors, 
and our slightest actions vibrate in ever-widening 
circles through incalculable time. Any end, there- 
fore, to a novel or a play, must be in the nature 
of an artifice; and an ending must be planned not 
in accordance with life, which is lawless and illogi- 
cal, but in accordance with art, whose soul is har- 
mony. It must be a strictly logical result of all 
that has preceded it. Having begun with a cer- 
tain intention, the true artist must complete his 
pattern, in accordance with laws more rigid than 
those of life; and he must not disrupt his design 
by an illogical intervention of the long arm of 
coincidence. Stevenson has stated this point in a 
letter to Mr. Sidney Colvin : " Make another end 
to it.? Ah, yes, but that's not the way I write; 
the whole tale is implied ; I never use an effect when 
I can help it, unless it prepares the effects that are 
to follow; that's what a story consists in. To 
make another end, that is to make the beginning 
all wrong." In this passage the whole question is 
considered merely from the point of view of art. 
It is the only point of view which is valid for the 
novelist ; for him the question is comparatively sim- 
ple, and Stevenson's answer, emphatic as it is, may 
be accepted as final. But the dramatist has yet 



THE HAPPY ENDING 171 

another factor to consider, — the factor of his au- 
dience. 

The drama is a more popular art than the novel, 
in the sense that it makes its appeal not to the in- 
dividual but to the populace. It sets a contest of 
human wills before a multitude gathered together 
for the purpose of witnessing the struggle; and it 
must relj for its interest largely upon the crowd's 
instinctive sense of partisanship. As Marlowe 
said, in Hero and Leander, — 

When two are stripped, long e'er the course begin, 
We wish that one should lose, the other win. 

The audience takes sides with certain characters 
against certain others ; and in most cases it is bet- 
ter pleased if the play ends in a victory for the 
characters it favors. The question therefore 
arises whether the dramatist is not justified in cog- 
ging the dice of chance and intervening arbitrarily 
to insure a happy outcome to the action, even 
though that outcome violate the rigid logic of the 
art of narrative. This is a very important ques- 
tion ; and it must not be answered dogmaticall3\ 
It is safest, witliout arguing ex cathedra, to accept 
the answer of the very greatest dramatists. Their 
practice goes to show that such a violation of the 
strict logic of art is justifiable in comedy, but is 
not justifiable in what we may broadly call the 
serious drama. Moliere, for instance, nearly al- 



172 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

ways gave an arbitrary happy ending to his com- 
edies. Frequently, in the last act, he introduced 
a long lost uncle, who arrived upon the scene just 
in time to endow the hero and heroine with a for- 
tune and to say " Bless you, my children ! " as 
the curtain fell. Moliere evidently took the atti- 
tude that since any ending whatsoever must be in 
the nature of an artifice, and contrary to the laws 
of life, he might as well falsify upon the pleasant 
side and send his auditors happy to their homes. 
Shakespeare took the same attitude in many com- 
edies, of which As You Like It may be chosen as 
an illustration. The sudden reform of Oliver and 
the tardy repentance of the usurping duke are 
^. both untrue to life and illogical as art ; but Shake- 
speare decided to throw probability and logic to 
the winds in order to close his comedy with a gen- 
eral feeling of good-will. But this easy answer 
to the question cannot be accepted in the case of 
the serious drama ; for — and this is a point that 
is very often missed — in proportion as the 
dramatic struggle becomes more vital and mo- 
mentous, the audience demands more and more that 
it shall be fought out fairly, and that even the 
characters it favors shall receive no undeserved as- 
sistance from the dramatist. This instinct of the 
crowd — the instinct by which its demand for fair- 
ness is proportioned to the importance of the strug- 
gle — may be studied by any follower of profes- 



THE HAPPY ENDING 173 

sional base-ball. The spectators at a ball-game 
are violently partisan and always want the home 
team to win. In any unimportant game — if the 
opposing teams, for instance, have no chance to 
win the pennant — the crowd is glad of any ques- 
tionable decision by the umpires that favors the 
home team. But in any game in which the pen- 
nant is at stake, a false or bad decision, even 
though it be rendered in favor of the home team, 
will be received with hoots of disapproval. The 
crowd feels, in such a case, that it cannot fully en- 
joy the sense of victory unless the victory be 
fairly won. For the same reason, when any im- 
portant play which sets out to end unhappih* is 
given a sudden twist which brings about an arbi- 
trary happy ending, the audience is likely to be 
displeased. And there is yet another reason for 
this displeasure. An audience may enjoy both 
farce and comedy without believing them ; but it 
cannot fully enjoy a serious play unless it believes 
the story. In the serious drama, an ending, to 
be enjoyable, must be credible; in other words, it 
must, for the sake of human interest, satisfy the 
strict logic of art. We arrive, therefore, at the 
paradox that although, in the final act, the comic 
dramatist may achieve popularity by renouncing 
the laws of art, tlic serious dramatist can achieve 
popularity only by adhering rigidly to a pattern 
of artistic truth. 



174 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

This is a point that is rarely understood by peo- 
ple who look at the general question from the point 
of view of the box-office ; they seldom appreciate 
the fact that a serious play which logically de- 
mands an unhappy ending will make more money 
if it is planned in accordance with the sternest laws 
of art than if it is given an arbitrary happy end- 
ing in which the audience cannot easily believe. 
The public wants to be pleased, but it wants even 
more to be satisfied. In the early eighteenth cen- 
tury both King Lear and Romeo and Juliet were 
played with fabricated happy endings ; but the his- 
tory of these plays, before and after, proves that 
the alteration, considered solely from the business 
standpoint, was an error. And yet, after all these 
centuries of experience, our modern managers still 
remain afraid of serious plays which lead logically 
to unhappy terminations, and, because of the 
power of their position, exercise an influence over 
writers for the stage which is detrimental to art 
and even contrary to the demands of human in- 
terest. 



IV 

THE BOUNDARIES OF APPROBATION 

When Hamlet warned the strolling players 
against making the judicious grieve, and when he 
lamented that a certain play had proved caviare to 
the general, he fixed for the dramatic critic the lower 
and the upper bound for catholicity of approba- 
tion. But between these outer boundaries lie many 
different precincts of appeal. The Txeo Orphans 
of Dennery and The Misanthrope of Moliere aim 
to interest two different types of audience. To 
say that The Two Orphans is a bad play because 
its appeal is not so intellectual as that of The 
Misanthrope would be no less a solecism than to 
say that The Misanthrope is a bad play because its 
appeal is not so emotional as that of The Two 
Orphans. The truth is that both stand within the 
boundaries of approbation. The one makes a 
primitive appeal to the emotions, without, how- 
ever, grieving the judicious; and the other makes 
a refined appeal to the intelligence, without, how- 
ever, subtly bewildering the mind of the general 
spectator. 

Since success is to a play the breath of life, it is 

175 



176 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

necessary that the dramatist should please his pub- 
lic; but in admitting this, we must remember that 
in a city so vast and varied as New York there are 
many different publics, which are willing to be 
pleased in many different ways. The dramatist 
with a new theme in his head may, before he sets 
about the task of building and writing his play, 
determine imaginatively the degree of emotional 
and intellectual equipment necessary to the sort of 
audience best fitted to appreciate that theme. 
Thereafter, if he build and write for that audience 
and that alone, and if he do his work sufficiently 
well, he may be almost certain that his play will 
attract the sort of audience he has demanded ; for 
any good play can create its own public by the 
natural process of selecting from the whole vast 
theatre-going population the kind of auditors it 
needs. That problem of the dramatist to please 
his public reduces itself, therefore, to two very 
simple phases: first, to choose the sort of public 
that he wants to please, and second, to direct his 
appeal to the mental make-up of the audience which 
he himself has chosen. This task, instead of ham- 
pering the dramatist, should serve really to assist 
him, because it requires a certain concentration of 
purpose and consistency of mood throughout his 
work. 

This concentration and consistency of purpose 
and of mood may be symbolised by the figure of 



THE BOUNDARIES OF APPROBATION 177 

aiming straight at a predetermined target. In the 
years when firearms were less perfected than they 
are at present, it was necessary, in shooting with 
a rifle, to aim lower than the mark, in order to 
allow for an upward kick at the discharge ; and, 
on the other hand, it was necessary, in shooting 
with heav3' ordnance, to aim higher than the mark, 
in order to allow for a parabolic droop of the 
cannon-ball in transit. Many dramatists, in their 
endeavor to score a hit, still employ these compro- 
mising tricks of marksmanship: some aim lower 
than the judgment of their auditors, others aim 
higher than their taste. But, in view of the fact 
that under present metropolitan conditions the 
dramatist may pick his own auditors, this aiming 
below them or above them seems (to quote Sir 
Thomas Browne) " a vanity out of date and super- 
annuated piece of folly." While granting the 
dramatist entire liberty to select the level of his 
mark, the critic may justly demand that he shall 
aim directly at it, without allowing his hand ever 
to droop down or flutter upward. That he should 
not aim below it is self-evident: there can be no 
possible excuse for making the judicious grieve. 
But that he should not aim above it is a proposition 
less likely to be accepted off'-hand by the fastidious : 
Hamlet spoke with a regretful fondness of that 
particular play which hud proved caviare to the 
general. It is, of course, nobler to shoot over the 



178 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

mark than to shoot under it; but it is nobler still 
to shoot directly at it. Surely there lies a simple 
truth beneath this paradox of words : — it is a 
higher aim to aim straight than to aim too high. 

If a play be so constituted as to please its con- 
sciously selected auditors, neither grieving their 
judgment by striking lower than their level of ap- 
preciation, nor leaving them unsatisfied by snob- 
bishly feeding them caviare when they have asked 
for bread, it must be judged a good play for its 
purpose. The one thing needful is that it shall 
neither insult their intelligence nor trifle with their 
taste. In view of the many different theatre-going 
publics and their various demands, the critic, in 
order to be just, must be endowed with a sym- 
pathetic versatility of approbation. He should 
take as his motto those judicious sentences with 
which the Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table 
prefaced his remarks upon the seashore and the 
mountains : — " No, I am not going to say which 
is best. The one where your place is is the best for 
you." 



IMITATION AND SUGGESTION IN THE 

DRAMA 

There is an old saying that it takes two to 
make a bargain or a quarrel; and, similarly, it 
takes two groups of people to make a play, — 
those whose minds are active behind the footlights, 
and those whose minds are active in the auditorium. 
We go to the theatre to enjoy ourselves, rather 
than to enjoy the actors or the author; and though 
we may be deluded into thinking that we are in- 
terested mainly by the ideas of the dramatist or the 
imagined emotions of the people on the stage, we 
really derive our chief enjoyment from such ideas 
and emotions of our own as are called into being 
by the observance of the mimic strife behind the 
footlights. The only thing in life that is really 
enjoyable is what takes place within ourselves; it is l^' 

our own experience, of thought or of emotion, that 
constitutes for us the only fixed and memorable 
reality amid the shifting shadows of the years; 
and the experience of anybody else, either actual 
or imaginary, touches us as true and permanent 
only when it calls forth an answering imagination 

179 



180 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

of our own. Each of us, in going to the theatre, 
carries with him, in his own mind, the real stage 
on which the two hours' traffic is to be enacted; 
and what passes behind the foothghts is efficient 
only in so far as it calls into activity that im- 
manent potential clash of feelings and ideas within 
our brain. It is the proof of a bad play that it 
permits us to regard it with no awakening of mind ; 
we sit and stare over the footlights with a brain 
that remains blank and unpopulated; we do not 
create within our souls that real play for which the 
actual is only the occasion; and since we remain 
empty of imagination, we find it impossible to 
enjoy ourselves. Our feeling in regard to a bad 
play might be phrased in the familiar sentence, — 
" This is all very well ; but what is it to me? " 
The piece leaves us unresponsive and aloof; we 
miss that answering and tallying of mind — to 
use Whitman's word — which is the soul of all ex- 
perience of worthy art. But a good play helps us 
'^ to enjoy ourselves by making us aware of our- 
selves; it forces us to think and feel. We may 
think differently from the dramatist, or feel emo- 
tions quite dissimilar from those of the imagined 
people of the story ; but, at any rate, our minds 
are consciously aroused, and the period of our at- 
tendance at the play becomes for us a period of 
real experience. The only thing, then, that counts 
in theatre-going is not what the play can give us, 



IMITATION AND SUGGESTION 181 

but what we can give the play. The enjoyment 
of the drama is subjective, and the province of the 
dramatist is merely to appeal to the subtle sense of 
life that is latent in ourselves. 

There are, in the main, two ways in which this 
appeal may be made effectively. The first is by 
imitation of what we have already seen around us ; 
and the second is by suggestion of what we have 
already experienced within us. We have seen peo- 
ple who were like Hedda Gabler; we have been 
people who were like Hamlet. The drama of facts 
stimulates us like our daily intercourse with the 
environing world; the drama of ideas stimulates us 
like our mystic midnight hours of solitary musing. 
Of the drama of imitation we demand that it shall 
remain appreciably within the limits of our own 
actual observation ; it must deal with our own coun- 
try and our own time, and must remind us of our 
daily inference from the affairs we see busy all 
about us. The drama of facts cannot be trans- 
planted; it cannot be made in France or Gennany 
and remade in America ; it is localised in place and 
time, and has no potency beyond the bounds of its 
locality. But the drama of suggestion is unlim- 
ited in its possibilities of appeal; ideas are without 
date, and burst the bonds of locality and language. 
Americans may see the ancient Greek drama of 
CEdipus Kin^ played in modem French by Mounet- 
Sully, and may experience thereby that inner over- 



182 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

whelming sense of the subhme which is more real 
than the recognition of any simulated actuality. 

The distinction between the two sources of ap- 
peal in drama may be made a little more clear by 
an illustration from the analogous art of literature. 
When Whitman, in his poem on Crossing Brooklyn 
Ferry, writes, " Crowds of men and women attired 
in the usual costumes ! ", he reminds us of the envi- 
ronment of our daily existence, and may or may 
not call forth within us some recollection of experi- 
ence. In the latter event, his utterance is a failure ; 
in the former, he has succeeded in stimulating ac- 
tivity of mind by the process of setting before us 
a reminiscence of the actual. But when, in the 
Song of Myself, he writes, " We found our own, 
O my Soul, in the calm and cool of the daybreak," 
he sets before us no imitation of habituated ex- 
ternality, but in a flash reminds us by suggestion 
of so much, that to recount the full experience 
thereof would necessitate a volume. That second 
sentence may well keep us busy for an evening, 
alive in recollection of uncounted hours of calm 
wherein the soul has ascended to recognition of its 
universe ; the first sentence we may dismiss at once, 
because it does not make anything important hap- 
pen in our consciousness. 

It must be confessed that the majority of the 
plays now shown in our theatres do not stimulate 
us to any responsive activity of mind, and there- 



IMITATION AND SUGGESTION 183 

fore do not permit us, in any real sense, to enjoy 
ourselves. But those that, in a measure, do suc- 
ceed in this prime endeavor of dramatic art may 
readily be grouped into two classes, according as 
their basis of appeal is imitation or suggestion. 



VI 

HOLDING THE MIRROR UP TO NATURE 

Doubtless no one would dissent from Hamlet's 
dictum that the purpose of playing is " to hold, 
as 't were, the mirror up to nature " ; but this state- 
ment is so exceedingly simple that it is rather diffi- 
cult to understand. What special kind of mirror 
did that wise dramatic critic have in mind when 
he coined this memorable phrase? Surely he could 
not have intended the sort of flat and clear reflec- 
tor by the aid of which we comb our hair; for a 
mirror such as this would represent life with such 
sedulous exactitude that we should gain no ad- 
vantage from looking at the reflection rather than 
at the life itself which was reflected. If I wish to 
see the tobacco jar upon my writing table, I look 
at the tobacco jar: I do not set a mirror up behind 
it and look into the mirror. But suppose I had 
a magic mirror which would reflect that jar in such 
a way as to show me not only its outside but also 
the amount of tobacco shut within it. ' In this 
latter case, a glance at the represented image would 
spare me a more laborious examination of the ac-^ 
tual object. 

184 



THE MAGIC MIRROR 185 

Now Hamlet must have had in mind some magic 
mirror such as this, which, by its manner of re- 
flecting life, would render life more intelligible. 
(jGoethe once remarked that the sole excuse for the 
existence of works of art is that they are different 
from the works of nature, j If the theatre showed 
us only what we see in life itself, there would be 
no sense at all in going to the theatre. Assuredly 
it must show us more than that; and it is an in- 
teresting paradox that in order to show us more 
it has to show us less. The magic mirror must re- 
fuse to reflect the irrelevant and non-essential, and 
must thereby concentrate attention on the pertinent 
and essential phases of nature. That mirror is the 
best that reflects the least which does not matter, 
and, as a consequence, reflects most clearly that 
which does. In actual life, truth is buried beneath 
a bewilderment of facts. Most of us seek it vainly, 
as we might seek a needle in a haystack. In this 
proverbial search we should derive no assistance 
from looking at a reflection of the haystack in an 
ordinary mirror. But imagine a glass so en- 
dowed with a selective magic that it would not re- 
flect hay but would reflect steel. Then, assuredly, 
there would be a valid and practical reason for 
holding the mirror up to nature. 

The only real triumph for an artist is not to show 
us a haystack, but to make us see the needle buried 
in it, — not to reflect the trappings and the suits of 



186 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

life, but to suggest a sense of that within which 
passeth show. To praise a play for its exactitude 
in representing facts would be a fallacy of criti- 
cism. VThe important question is not how nearly 
the play reflects the look of life, but how much it 
helps the audience to understand life's meaning.^ 
The sceneless stage of the Elizabethan As You 
Like It revealed more meanings than our modern 
scenic forests empty of Rosalind and Orlando. 
There is no virtue in reflection unless there be some 
magic in the mirror. Certain enterprising mod- 
ern managers permit their press agents to pat them 
on the back because they have set, say, a locomo- 
tive on the stage ; but why should we pay two dol- 
lars to see a locomotive in the theatre when we may 
see a dozen locomotives in the Grand Central Sta- 
tion without paying anything ? Why, indeed ! — 
unless the dramatist contrives to reveal an imag- 
inable human mystery throbbing in the palpitant 
heart — no, not of the locomotive, but of the loco- 
motive-engineer. That is something that we could 
not see at all in the Grand Central Station, unless 
we were endowed with eyes as penetrant as those 
of the dramatist himself. 

But not only must the drama render life more 
comprehensible by discarding the irrelevant, and 
attracting attention to the essential ; it must also 
render us the service of bringing to a focus that 
phase of life it represents. The mirror which the 



THE MAGIC MIRROR 187 

dramatist holds up to nature should be a concave 
mirror, which concentrates the rays impinging on 
it to a luminous focal image. Hamlet was too 
much a metaphysician to busy his mind about the 
simpler science of physics ; but surely this figure 
of the concave mirror, with its phenomenon of con- 
centration, represents most suggestively his belief 
concerning the purpose of playing and of plays. 
The trouble with most of our dramas is that they 
render scattered and incoherent images of life; 
they tell us many unimportant things, instead of 
telling us one important thing in many ways. 
They reveal but little, because they reproduce too 
much. But it is only by bringing all life to a 
focus in a single luminous idea that it is possible, 
in the two hours' traffic of the stage, " to show 
virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and 
the very age and body of the time his form and 
pressure." 

An interesting instance of how a dramatist, by 
holding, as it were, a concave mirror up to nature, 
may concentrate all life to a focus in a single 
luminous idea is afforded by that justly celebrated 
drama entitled El Gran Guleoto, by Don Jose 
Echegaray. This play was first produced at the 
Teatro Espanol on March 19, 1881, and achieved 
a triumph that soon diffused the fame of its au- 
thor, which till then had been but local, beyond 
the Pyrenees. It is now generally recognised as 



188 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

one of the standard monuments of the modem so- 
cial drama. It owes its eminence mainly to the un- 
flinching emphasis which it casts upon a single 
great idea. This idea is suggested in Its title. 

In the old French romance of Launcelot of the 
Lake, it was Gallehault who first prevailed on 
Queen Guinevere to give a kiss to Launcelot: he 
was thus the means of making actual their poten- 
tial guilty love. His name thereafter, like that of 
Pandarus of Troy, became a symbol to designate 
a go-between, inciting to illicit love. In the fifth 
canto of the Inferno, Francesca da Rimini narrates 
to Dante how she and Paolo read one day, all un- 
suspecting, the romance of Launcelot ; and after 
she tells how her lover, allured by the suggestion of 
the story, kissed her on the mouth all trembhng, 
she adds, 

Galeotto fu'I libro e chi lo scrisse, 

which may be translated, " The book and the au- 
thor of it performed for us the service of Galle- 
hault." Now Echegaray, desiring to retell in 
modern terms the old familiar story of a man and 
a woman who, at first innocent in their relationship, 
are allured by unappreciable degrees to the sud- 
den realisation of a great passion for each other, 
asked himself what force it was, in modem life, 
which would perform for them most tragically the 
sinful service of Gallehault, Then it struck him 



THE MAGIC MIRROR 189 

that the great Gallehault of modem life — El 
Gran Galeoto — was the impalpable power of gos- 
sip, the suggestive force of whispered opinion, the 
prurient allurement of evil tongues. Set all society 
to glancing slyly at a man and a woman whose re- 
lation to each other is really innocent, start the 
wicked tongues a-babbling, and you will stir up 
a whirlwind which will blow them giddily into 
each other's arms. Thus the old theme might be 
recast for the purposes of modem tragedy. 
Echegara}^ himself, in the critical prose prologue 
which he prefixed to his play, comments upon the 
fact that the chief character and main motive force 
of the entire drama can never appear upon the 
stage, except in hints and indirections ; because the 
great Gallehault of his story is not any particular 
person, but rather all slanderous society at large. 
As he expresses it, the villain-hero of his drama is 
Todo el mundo, — everybody, or all the world. 

This, obviously, is a great idea for a modern 
social drama, because it concentrates within itself 
many of the most important phases of the per- 
ennial struggle between the individual and society ; 
and this great idea is embodied with direct, un- 
wavering simplicity in the story of the play. Don 
Julian, a rich merchant about forty years of age, 
is ideally married to Teodora, a beautiful woman 
in her early twenties, who adores him. He is a 
generous and kindly man ; and upon the death of 



190 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

an old and honored friend, to whose assistance in 
the past he owes his present fortune, he adopts 
into his household the son of this friend, Ernesto. 
Ernesto is twenty-six years old; he reads poems 
and writes plays, and is a thoroughly fine fellow. 
He feels an almost filial affection for Don Julian 
and a wholesome brotherly friendship for Teodora. 
They, in turn, are beautifully fond of him. Nat- 
urally, he accompanies them everywhere in the 
social world of Madrid ; he sits in, their box at the 
opera, acting as Teodora's escort when her hus- 
band is detained by business ; and he goes walking 
with Teodora of an afternoon. Society, with 
sinister imagination, begins to look askance at the 
triangulated household; tongues begin to wag; 
and gossip grows. Tidings of the evil talk about 
town are brought to Don Julian by his brother, 
Don Severo, who advises that Ernesto had better 
be requested to live in quarters of his own. Don 
Julian nobly repels this suggestion as insulting ; 
but Don Severo persists that only by such a course 
may the family name be rendered unimpeachable 
upon the public tongue. 

Ernesto, himself, to still the evil rumors, goes to 
live in a studio alone. This simple move on his 
part suggests to everybody — todo el mundo — 
that he must have had a real motive for making it. 
Gossip increases, instead of diminishing; and the 



THE MAGIC MIRROR 191 

emotions of Teodora, Don Julian, and himself are 
stirred to the point of nervous tensity. Don 
Julian, in spite of his own sweet reasonableness, 
begins subtly to wonder if there could be, by any 
possibility, an}^ basis for his brother's vehemence. 
Don Severo's wife, Dona Mercedes, repeats the 
talk of the town to Teodora, and turns her im- 
agination inward, till it falters in self-questionings. 
Similarly the great Gallehault, — which is the word 
of all the world, — whispers unthinkable and tragic 
possibilities to the poetic and self-searching mind 
of Ernesto. He resolves to seek release in Argen- 
tina. But before he can sail away, he overhears, 
in a fashionable cafe, a remark which casts a slur 
on Teodora, and strikes the speaker of the insult 
in the face. A duel is forthwith arranged, to take 
place in a vacant studio adjacent to Ernesto's. 
When Don Julian learns about it, he is troubled by 
the idea that another man should be fighting for 
his wife, and rushes forthwith to wreak vengeance 
himself on the traducer. Teodora hears the news ; 
and in order to prevent both her husband and 
Ernesto from endangering their lives, she rushes 
to Ernesto's rooms to urge him to forestall hos- 
tilities. Meanwhile her husband encounters the 
slanderer, and is severely wounded. He is carried 
to Ernesto's studio. Hearing people coming, 
Teodora hides herself in Ernesto's bedroom, where 



192 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

she is discovered by her husband's attendants. 
Don Julian, wounded and enfevered, now at last 
believes the worst. 

Ernesto seeks and slays Don Julian's assailant. 
But now the whole world credits what the whole 
world has been whispering. In vain Ernesto and 
Teodora protest their innocence to Don Severo and 
to Dona Mercedes. In vain they plead with the 
kindly and noble man they both revere and love. 
Don Julian curses them, and dies believing in their 
guilt. Then at last, when they find themselves 
cast forth isolate by the entire world, their com- 
mon tragic loneliness draws them to each other. 
They are given to each other by the world. The 
insidious purpose of the great Gallehault has been 
accomplished ; and Ernesto takes Teodora for his 
own. 



VII 



BLANK VERSE ON THE CONTEMPORARY 

STAGE 

It is amazing how man}'^ people seem to think 
that the subsidiary fact that a certain play is 
written in verse makes it of necessity dramatic 
literature. Whether or not a play is literature 
depends not upon the medium of utterance the 
characters may use, but on whether or not the play 
sets forth a truthful view of some momentous 
theme; and whether or not a play is drama de- 
pends not upon its trappings and its suits, but on 
whether or not it sets forth a tense and vital strug- 
gle between individual human wills. The Second 
Mrs. Tanqueray fulfils both of these conditions 
and is dramatic literature, while the poetic plays 
of Mr. Stephen Phillips stand upon a lower plane, 
both as drama and as literature, even though they 
are written in the most interesting blank verse 
that has been developed since Tennyson. Shore 
Acres, which was written in New England dialect, 
was, I think, dramatic literature. Mr. Percy 
Mackaye's Jeanne d'Arc, I think, was not, even 

193 



194 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

though in merely hterary merit it revealed many 
excellent qualities. 

Jeanne d'Arc was not a play ; it was a narrative 
in verse, with lyric interludes. It was a thing to 
be read rather than to be acted. It was a charm- 
ing poetic story, but it was not an interesting 
contribution to the stage. Most people felt this, 
I am sure; but most people lacked the courage 
of their feeling, and feared to confess that they 
were wearied by the piece, lest they should be 
suspected of lack of taste. I believe thoroughly 
in the possibility of poetic drama at the present 
day ; but it must be drama first and foremost, and 
poetry only secondarily. Mr. Mackaye, like a 
great many other aspirants, began at the wrong 
end: he made his piece poetry first and foremost, 
and drama only incidentally. And I think that 
the only way to prepare the public for true poetic 
drama is to educate the public's faith in its right 
to be bored in the theatre by poetry that is not 
dramatic. Performances of Pippa Passes and 
The Sunken Bell exert a very unpropitious in- 
fluence upon the mood of the average theatre-goer. 
These poems are not plays ; and the innocent spec- 
tator, being told that they are, is made to believe 
that poetic drama must be necessarily a soporific 
thing. And when this behef is once lodged in 
his uncritical mind, it is difficult to dispel it, even 
with a long course of Othello and Hamlet. Paolo 



BLANK VERSE ON THE STAGE 195 

and Francesca was a good poem, but a bad play ; 
and its weakness as a play was not excusable by 
its beauty as a poem. Cyrano de Bergerac was 
a good play, first of all, and a good poem also; 
and even a public that fears to seem Philistine 
knew the difference instinctively. 

Mrae. Nazimova has been quoted as saying that 
she would never act a play in verse, because in 
speaking verse she could not be natural. But 
whether an actor may be natural or not depends 
entireh' upon the kind of verse the author has 
given him to speak. Three kinds of blank verse 
are known in English literature, — lyric, narra- 
tive, and dramatic. By lyric blank verse I mean 
verse like that of Tennyson's Tears, Idle Tears; 
by narrative, verse like that of Mr. Stephen 
Phillips's Marpessa or Tennyson's Idylls of the 
King; by dramatic, verse like that of the murder 
scene in Macbeth. The Elizabethan playwrights 
wrote all three kinds of blank verse, because their 
drama was a platform drama and admitted nan-a- 
tive and lyric as well as dramatic elements. But 
because of the development in modem times of 
the physical conditions of the theatre, we have 
grown to exclude from the drama all non-dramatic 
elements. Narrative and lyric, for their own 
sakes, have no place upon the modem stage ; they 
may be introduced only for a definite dramatic 
purpose. Only one of the three kinds of blank 



196 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

verse that the Elizabethan playwrights used is, 
therefore, serviceable on the modem stage. But 
our poets, because of inexperience in the 
theatre, insist on writing the other two. For this 
reason, and for this reason only, do modern actors 
like Mme. Nazimova complain of plays In verse. 

Mr. Percy Mackaye's verse in Jeanne d'Arc, for 
example, was at certain moments lyric, at most 
moments narrative, and scarcely ever dramatic in 
technical mold and manner. It resembled the 
verse of Tennyson more nearly than it resembled 
that of any other master ; and Tennyson was a 
narrative, not a dramatic, poet. It set a value 
on literary expression for its own sake rather than 
for the purpose of the play ; it was replete with 
elaborately lovely phrases ; and it admitted the in- 
versions customary in verse intended for the printed 
page. But I am firm in the belief that verse 
written for the modern theatre should be absolutely 
simple. It should incorporate no words, however 
beautiful, that are not used in the daily conver- 
sation of the average theatre-goer; it should set 
these words only in their natural order, and admit 
no inversions whatever for the sake of the line; 
and it should set a value on expression, never 
for its own sake, but solely for the sake of the 
dramatic purpose to be accomplished in the scene. 
Verse such as this would permit of every rhythmi- 
cal variation known in EngHsh prosody, and 



BLANK VERSE ON THE STAGE 197 

through the appeal of its rhythm would offer the 
dramatist opportunities for emotional effect that 
prose would not allow him ; but at the same time 
it could be spoken with entire naturalness by actors 
as ultra-modem as Mme. Nazimova, 

Mr. Stephen Phillips has not learned this lesson, 
and the verse that he has written in his plays is 
the same verse that he used in his narratives, 
Marpessa and Christ in Hades. It is great narra- 
tive blank verse, but for dramatic uses it is too 
elaborate. Mr. Mackaye has started out on the 
same mistaken road: in Jeanne cTArc his prosody 
is that of closet-verse, not theatre-verse. The 
poetic drama will be doomed to extinction on the 
modem stage unless our poets learn the lesson of 
simplicity. I shall append some lines of Shake- 
speare's to illustrate the ideal of directness toward 
which our latter-day poetic dramatists should 
strive. When Lear holds the dead Cordelia in his 
arms, he says: 

Her voice was ever soft, 
Gentle, and low, — an excellent thing in woman. 

Could any actor be unnatural in speaking words 
so simple, so familiar, and so naturally set.'' 
Viola says to Orsino : 

My father had a daughter loved a man, 
As it might be, perhaps, were I woman, 
I should your lordship. 



198 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

Here again the words are all colloquial and are 
set in their accustomed order; but by sheer mas- 
tery of rhythm the poet contrives to express the 
tremulous hesitance of Viola's mood as it could 
not be expressed in prose. There is a need for 
verse upon the stage, if the verse be simple and 
colloquial ; and there is a need for poetry in the 
drama, provided that the play remain the thing 
and the poetry contribute to the play. 



VIII 

DRAMATIC LITERATURE AND THEATRIC 
JOURNALISM 

One reason why journalism is a lesser thing 
than literature is that it subserves the tyranny 
of timeliness. It narrates the events of the day 
and discusses the topics of the hour, for the sole 
reason that they happen for the moment to float 
uppermost upon the current of human experience. 
The flotsam of this current may occasionally have 
dived up from the depths and may give a glimpse 
of some underlying secret of the sea; but most 
often it merely drifts upon the surface, indicative 
of nothing except which way the wind lies. What- 
ever topic is the most timely to-day is doomed to 
be the most untimely to-morrow. Where are the 
journals of yester-year.'' Dig them out of dusty 
files, and all that they say will seem wearisomely 
old, for the very reason that when it was written 
it seemed spiritedly new. Whatever wears a date 
upon its forehead will soon be out of date. The 
main interest of news is newness ; and nothing 
slips so soon behind the times as novelty. 

With timeliness, as an incentive, literature has 

199 



200 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

absolutely no concern. Its purpose is to reveal 
what was and is and evermore shall be. It can 
never grow old, for the reason that it has never 
attempted to be new. Early in the nineteenth 
century, the gentle Elia revolted from the tyranny 
of timeliness. " Hang the present age ! ", said he, 
" I'll write for antiquity." The timely utterances 
of his contemporaries have passed away with the 
times that called them forth : his essays live peren- 
nially new. In the dateless realm of revelation, 
antiquity joins hands with futurity. There can 
be nothing either new or old in any utterance 
which is really true or beautiful or right. 

In considering a given subject, journalism seeks 
to discover what there is in it that belongs to 
the moment, and literature seeks to reveal what 
there is in it that belongs to eternity. To journal- 
ism facts are important because they are facts; 
to literature they are important only in so far as 
they are representative of recurrent truths. Lit- 
erature speaks because it has something to say: 
journalism speaks because the public Avants to be 
talked to. Literature is an emanation from an 
inward impulse: but the motive of journalism is 
external; it is fashioned to supply a demand out- 
side itself. It is frequently said, and is some- 
times believed, that the province of journahsm is 
to mold public opinion; but a consideration of 
actual conditions indicates rather that its province 



LITERATURE AND JOURNALISM 201 

is to find out what the opinion of some section 
of the public is, and then to formulate it and 
express it. The successful journalist tells his 
readers what they want to be told. He becomes 
their prophet by making clear to them what they 
themselves are thinking. He influences people by 
agreeing with them. In doing this he may be 
entirely sincere, for his readers may be right and 
may demand from him the statement of his own 
most serious convictions ; but the fact remains 
that his motive for expression is centred in them 
instead of in himself. It is not thus that literature 
is motivated. Literature is not a formulation of 
public opinion, but an expression of personal and 
particular belief. For this reason it is more likely 
to be true. Public opinion is seldom so important 
as private opinion. Socrates was right and Athens 
wrong. Very frequently the multitude at the foot 
of the mountain are worshiping a golden calf, 
while the pro])het, lonely and aloof upon the sum- 
mit, is hearkening to the very voice of God. 

The journalist is limited by the necessity of 
catering to majorities; he can never experience 
the felicity of Dr. Stockmann, who felt himself 
the strongest man on earth because he stood most 
alone. It may sometimes happen that the major- 
ity is right ; but in that case the agreement of 
the journalist is an unnecessary utterance. The 
truth was known before he spoke, and his speak- 



202 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

ing is superfluous. What is popularly said about 
the educative force of journalism is, for the most 
part, baseless. Education occurs when a man is 
confronted with something true and beautiful and 
good which stimulates to active life that " bright 
effluence of bright essence increate " which dwells 
within him. The real ministers of education must 
be, in Emerson's phrase, " lonely, original, and 
pure." But journalism is popular instead of 
lonely, timely rather than original, and expedient 
instead of pure. Even at its best, journalism 
remains an enterprise; but literature at its best 
becomes no less than a religion. 

These considerations are of service in studying 
what is written for the theatre In all periods, 
certain contributions to the drama have been jour- 
nalistic in motive and intention, while certain others 
have been literary. There is a good deal of jour- 
nalism in the comedies of Aristophanes. He often 
chooses topics mainly for their timeliness, and 
gathers and says what happens to be in the air. 
Many of the Elizabethan dramatists, like Dekker 
and Hey wood and Middleton for example, looked 
at life with the journalistic eye. They collected and 
disseminated news. They were, in their own time, 
much more " up to date " than Shakespeare, who 
chose for his material old stories that nearly every 
one had read. Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair is 
glorified journalism. It brims over with con- 



LITERATURE AND JOURNALISM 202 

temporary gossip and timely witticisms. There- 
fore it is out of date to-day, and is read only by 
people who wish to find out certain facts of Lon- 
don life in Jonson's time. Hamlet in 1602 was 
not a novelty ; but it is still read and seen by 
people who wish to find out certain truths of life 
in general. 

At the present day, a very large proportion of 
the contributions to the theatre must be classed 
and judged as journalism. Such plays, for in- 
stance, as The Lion and the Mouse and The Man 
of the Hour are nothing more or less than dram- 
atised newspapers. A piece of this sort, how- 
ever effective it may be at the moment, must soon 
suffer the fate of all things timely and slip be- 
hind the times. Whenever an author selects a 
subject because he thinks the public wants him 
to talk about it, instead of because he knows he 
wants to talk about it to the public, his motive 
is journalistic rather than literary. A timely 
topic may, however, be used to embody a truly 
literary intention. In The Witching Hour, for 
example, journalism was lifted into literature by 
the sincerity of Mr. Thomas's conviction that 
he had something real and significant to say. 
The play became important because there was a 
man behind it. Individual })ersonalIty is perhaps 
the most dateless cf all phenomena. The fact 
of any great individuality once accomplished and 



204 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

achieved becomes contemporary with the human 
race and sloughs off the usual limits of past and 
future. 

Whatever Mr. J. M. Barrie writes is literature, 
fcecause he dwells isolate amidst the world in a 
wise minority of one. The things that he says 
are of importance because nobody else could have 
said them. He has achieved individuality, and 
thereby passed out of hearing of the ticking of 
clocks into an ever-ever land where dates are not 
and consequently epitaphs can never be. What 
he utters is of interest to the public, because his 
motive for speaking is private and personal. In- 
stead of telling people what they think that they 
are thinking, he tells them what they have always 
known but think they have forgotten. He per- 
forms, for this oblivious generation, the service 
of a great reminder. He lures us from the stri- 
dent and factitious world of which we read daily 
in the first pages of the newspapers, back to the 
serene eternal world of little, nameless, unremem- 
bered acts of kindness and of love. He educates the 
many, not by any crass endeavor to formulate or 
even to mold the opinion of the public, but by 
setting simply before them thoughts which do often 
lie too deep for tears. 

The distinguishing trait of Mr. Barrie's genius 
is that he looks upon life with the simplicity of 
a child and sees it with the wisdom of a woman. 



LITERATURE AND JOURNALISM 205 

He has a woman's subtlety of insight, a child's 
concreteness of imagination. He is endowed (to 
reverse a famous phrase of Matthew Arnold's) 
with a sweet unreasonableness. He understands 
life not with his intellect but with his sensibilities. 
As a consequence, he is familiar with all the 
tremulous, delicate intimacies of human nature 
that every woman knows, but that most men 
glimpse only in moments of exalted sympathy with 
some wise woman whom they love. His insight 
has that absoluteness which is beyond the reach 
of intellect alone. He knows things for the un- 
utterable woman's reason, — " because . . ." 

But with this feminine, intuitive understanding 
of humanity, Mr. Barrie combines the distinctively 
masculine trait of being able to communicate the 
things that his emotions know. The greatest 
poets would, of course, be women, were it not for 
the fact that women are in general incapable of 
revealing through the medium of articulate art 
the very things they know most deeply. Most 
of the women who have written have said only 
the lesser phases of themselves ; they have unwit- 
tingly withheld their deepest and most poignant 
wisdom because of a native reticence of speech. 
Many a time they reach a heaven of understand- 
ing shut to men ; but when they come back, they 
cannot tell the world. The rare artists among 
women, like Sappho and Mrs. Browning and 



206 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

Christina Rossetti and Laurence Hope, in their 
several different wa3^s, have gotten themselves ex- 
pressed onl}' through a sublime and glorious un- 
ashamedness. As HaAvthorne once remarked very 
wisely, women have achieved art only when they 
have stood naked in the market-place. But men in 
general are not withheld by a similar hesitance 
from saying what they feel most deeply. No 
woman could have written Mr. Barrie's biography 
of his mother; but for a man like him there is 
a sort of sacredness in revealing emotion so pri- 
vate as to be expressible only in the purest 
speech. Mr. Barrie was apparently born into the 
world of men to tell us what our mothers and 
our wives would have told us if they could, — what 
in deep moments they have tried to tell us, trem- 
bling exquisitely upon the verge of the words. 
The theme of his best work has always been 
" what every woman knows." In expressing this, 
he has added to the permanent recorded knowl- 
edge of humanity ; and he has thereby lifted his 
plays above the level of theatric journalism to 
the level of true dramatic literature. 



TX 

THE INTENTION OF PERMANENCE 

At Coney Island and Atlantic City and many 
other seaside resorts whither the multitude drifts 
to drink oblivion of a day, an artist may be 
watched at work modeling images in the sand. 
These he fashions deftl}-, to entice the immediate 
pennies of the crowd ; but when his wage is earned, 
he leaves his statues to be washed away by the 
next high surging of the tide. The sand-man 
is often a good artist; let us suppose he were a 
better one. Let us imagine him endowed with 
a brain and a hand on a par with those of 
Pi'axiteles. None the less we should set his sea- 
shore images upon a lower plane of art than the 
monuments Praxiteles himself hewed out of mar- 
ble. This we should do instinctively, with no 
recourse to critical theory ; and that man in the 
multitude who knew the least about art would ex- 
press this judgment most emphatically. The sim- 
ple reason would be that the art of the sand-man 
is lacking in the Intention of Permanence. 

The Intention of Peniianencc, whether it be 
conscious or subconscious with the artist, is a 

207 



208 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

necessary factor of the noblest art. Many of 
us remember the Court of Honor at the World's 
Columbian Exposition, at Chicago fifteen years 
ago. The sculpture was good and the architec- 
ture better. In chasteness and symmetry of 
general design, in spaciousness fittingly re- 
strained, in simplicity more decorative than de- 
liberate decoration, those white buildings blooming 
into gold and mirrored in a calm lagoon, dazzled 
the eye and delighted the aesthetic sense. And yet, 
merely because they lacked the Intention of Per- 
manence, they failed to awaken that solemn happy 
heartache that we feel in looking upon the tumbled 
ruins of some ancient temple. We could never 
quite forget that the buildings of the Court of 
Honor were fabrics of frame and stucco sprayed 
with whitewash, and that the statues were kneaded 
out of plaster: they were set there for a year, not 
for all time. But there is at Paestum a crumbled 
Doric temple to Poseidon, built in ancient days 
to remind the reverent of that incalculable vast- 
ness that tosses men we know not whither. It 
stands forlorn in a malarious marsh, yet eternally 
within hearing of the unsubservient surge. Many 
of its massive stones have tottered to the earth ; 
and irrelevant little birds sing in nests among 
the capitals and mock the solemn silence that the 
Greeks ordained. But the sacred Intention of 
Permanence that filled and thrilled the souls of 



THE INTENTION OF PERMANENCE 209 

those old builders stands triumphant over time ; 
and if only a single devastated column stood to 
mark their meaning, it would yet be a greater 
thing than the entire Court of Honor, built only 
to commemorate the passing of a year. 

In all the arts except the acted drama, it is easy 
even for the laj'man to distinguish work which is 
immediate and momentary from work which is 
permanent and real. It was the turbulent un- 
tutored crowd that clamored loudest in demand- 
ing that the Dewey Arch should be rendered per- 
manent in marble: it was only the artists and the 
art-critics who were satisfied by the monument in 
its ephemeral state of frame and plaster. But 
in the drama, the layman often finds it difficult to 
distinguish between a piece intended merely for 
immediate entertainment and a piece that incor- 
porates the Intention of Permanence. In partic- 
ular he almost always fails to distinguish between 
what is really a character and what is merely 
an acting part. When a dramatist really creates 
a character, he imagines and projects a human 
being so truly conceived and so clearly presented 
that any average man would receive the impres- 
sion of a living person if he were to read in 
manuscript the bare lines of the play. But when 
a playright merely devises an acting part, he does 
nothing more than indicate to a capable actor the 
possibility of so comporting himself upon the 



210 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

stage as to convince his audience of humanity in 
his performance. From the standpoint of criti- 
cism, the main difficulty is that the actor's art 
may frequently obscure the dramatist's lack of 
art, and vice versa, so that a mere acting part 
may seem, in the hands of a capable actor, a 
real character, whereas a real character may seem, 
in the hands of an incapable actor, an indifferent 
acting part. Rip Van Winkle, for example, was 
a wonderful acting part for Joseph Jefferson ; 
but it was, from the standpoint of the dramatist, 
not a character at all, as any one may see who 
takes the trouble to read the play. Beau Brum- 
mel, also, was an acting part rather than a 
character. And yet the layman, under the imme- 
diate spell of the actor's representative art, is 
tempted in such cases to ignore that the dramatist 
has merely modeled an image in the sand. 

Likewise, on a larger scale, the layman habit- 
ually fails to distinguish between a mere theatric 
entertainment and a genuine drama. A genuine 
drama always reveals through its imagined strug- 
gle of contesting wills some eternal truth of human 
life, and illuminates some real phases of human 
character. But a theatric entertainment may 
present merely a deftly fabricated struggle be- 
tween puppets, wherein the art of the actor is 
given momentary exercise. To return to our com- 
parison, a genuine drama is carved out of marble, 



THE INTENTION OF PERMANENCE 211 

and incorporates, consciously or not, the Intention 
of Pennanence; whereas a mere theatric entertain- 
ment may be hkened to a group of figures sculp- 
tured in the sand. 

Those of us who ask much of the contemporary 
theatre maj^ be saddened to observe that most of 
the current dramatists seem more akin to the sand- 
man than to Praxiteles. They have built Courts 
of Honor for forty weeks, rather than temples 
to Poseidon for eternity. Yet it is futile to con- 
demn an artist who does a lesser thing quite well 
because he has not attempted to do a greater 
thing which, very probably, he could not do at 
all. Criticism, in order to render any practical 
service, must be tuned in accordance with the in- 
tention of the artist. The important point for 
the critic of the sand-man at Coney Island is not 
to complain because he is not so enduring an artist 
as Praxiteles, but to determine why he is, or 
is not, as the case may be, a better artist than 
the sand-man at Atlantic City. 



THE QUALITY OF NEW ENDEAVOR 

Many critics seem to be of the opinion that 
the work of a new and unknown author deserves 
and requires less serious consideration than the work 
of an author of established reputation. There is, 
however, an important sense in which the very con- 
trary is true. The function of the critic is to 
help the public to discern and to appreciate what is 
worthy. The fact of an established reputation 
affords evidence that the author who enjoys it has 
already achieved the appreciation of the public 
and no longer stands in need of the intermediary 
service of the critic. But every new author ad- 
vances as an applicant for admission into the ranks 
of the recognised ; and the critic must, whenever 
possible, assist the public to determine whether the 
newcomer seems destined by inherent right to enter 
among the good and faithful servants, or whether 
he is essentially an outsider seeking to creep or 
intrude or climb into the fold. 

Since everybody knows already who Sir Arthur 
Wing Pinero is and what may be expected of him, 
the only question for the critic, in considering a 

212 



THE QUALITY OF NEW ENDEAVOR 213 

new play from his practiced pen, is whether or not 
the author has succeeded in advancing or maintain- 
ing the standard of his earher and remembered ef- 
forts. If, as in The Wife Without a Smile, he falls 
far below that standard, the critic may condemn the 
play, and let the matter go at that. Although the 
new piece may be discredited, the author's reputa- 
tion will suffer no abiding injury from the deep 
damnation of its taking off; for the public will 
continue to remember the third act of The Gay 
Lord Quex, and will remain assured that Sir Arthur 
Pinero is worth while. But when a play by a 
new author comes up for consideration, the pub- 
lic needs to be told not only whether the work 
itself has been well or badly done, but also whether 
or not the unknown author seems to be inherently 
a person of importance, from whom more worthy 
works may be expected in the future. The critic 
must not only make clear the playwright's present 
actual accomplishment, but must also estimate his 
promise. An author's first or second play is im- 
portant mainly — to use Whitman's phrase — as 
" an encloser of things to be." The question is 
not so much what the author has already done as 
what he is likely to do if he is given further hear- 
ings. It is in this sense that the work of an un- 
known playwright requires and deserves more 
serious consideration than the work of an acknowl- 
edged master. Accomplishment is comparatively 



2U THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

easy to appraise, but to appreciate promise requires 
forward-looking and far-seeing eyes. 

In the real sense, It matters very little whether 
an author's early plays succeed or fall. The one 
point that does matter Is whether, In either case, 
the merits and defects are of such a nature as to 
indicate that the man behind the work is inherently 
a man worth while. In either failure or success, the 
sole significant thing Is the quality of the endeavor. 
A young author may fail for the shallow reason 
that he is Insincere; but he may fail even more 
decisively for the sublime reason that as yet his 
reach exceeds his grasp. He may succeed because 
through earnest effort he has done almost well 
something eminently worth the doing ; or he may 
succeed merely because he has essayed an unim- 
portant and an easy task. Often more hope for 
an author's future may be founded upon an initial 
failure than upon an Initial success. It Is better 
for a young man to fail In a large and noble effort 
than to succeed In an effort insignificant and mean. 
For in labor, as in life, Stevenson's maxim is very 
often pertinent : — to travel hopefully is fre- 
quently a better thing than to arrive. 

And in estimating the work of new and un- 
known authors, it Is not nearly so Important for 
the critic to consider their present technical ac- 
complishment as it is for him to consider the 
sincerity with which they have endeavored to tell 



THE QUALITY OF NEW ENDEAVOR 215 

the truth about some important phase of human 
life. Dramatic criticism of an academic cast is 
of little value either to those who write plays or 
to those who see them. The man who buys his 
ticket to the theatre knows little and cares less 
about the technique of play-making; and for the 
dramatist himself there are no ten commandments. 
I have been gradually growing to believe that 
there is only one commandment for the dramatist, 
— that he shall tell the truth ; and only one fault 
of which a play is capable, — that, as a whole or 
in details, it tells a lie. A play is irretrievably 
bad only when the average theatre-goer — a man. 
I mean, with no special knowledge of dramatic 
art — viewing what is done upon the stage and 
hearing what is said, revolts instinctively against it 
with a feeling that I may best express in that 
famous sentence of Assessor Brack's, " People 
don't do such things." A play that is truthful 
at all points will never evoke this instinctive dis- 
approval ; a play that tells lies at certain points 
will lose attention by jangling those who know. 

The test of truthfulness is the final test of ex- 
cellence in drama. In saying this, of course, 1 
do not mean that the best plays are realistic in 
method, naturalistic in setting, or close to actuality 
in subject-matter. The Tempest is just as true as 
The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Peter Pan is 
just as true as Ghosts. I mean merely that the 



216 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

people whom the dramatist has conceived must act 
and speak at all points consistently with the laws 
of their imagined existence, and that these laws 
must be in harmony with the laws of actual life. 
Whenever people on the stage fail of this con- 
sistency with law, a normal theatre-goer will feel 
instinctively, " Oh, no, he did not do that," or, 
" Those are not the words she said." It may 
safely be predicated that a play is really bad only 
when the audience does not believe it ; for a dram- 
atist is not capable of a single fault, either techni- 
cal or othei-wise, that may not be viewed as one 
phase or another of untruthfulness. 



XI 

THE EFFECT OF PLAYS UPON THE PUBLIC 

In the course of his glorious Song of the Open 
Road, Walt Whitman said, " I and mine do not 
convince by arguments, similes, rhymes ; we con- 
vince by our presence " ; and it has always seemed 
to me that this remark is peculiarly applicable to 
dramatists and dramas. The primary purpose of 
a play is to give a gathered multitude a larger 
sense of life by evoking its emotions to a con- 
sciousness of terror and pity, laughter and love. 
Its purpose is not primarily to rouse the intellect 
to thought or call the will to action. In so far 
as the drama uplifts and edifies the audience, it 
does so, not by precept or by syllogism, but by 
emotional suggestion. It teaches not by what it 
says, but rather by what it deeply and mysteri- 
ously is. It convinces not by its arguments, but 
by its presence. 

It follows that those who think about the drama 
in relation to society at large, and consider as a 
matter of serious importance the effect of the 
theatre on the ticket-buying public, should devote 
profound consideration to that subtle quality of 

217 



218 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

plays which I may call their tone. Since the 
drama convinces less by its arguments than by Its 
presence, less by its intellectual substance than by 
its emotional suggestion, we have a right to de- 
mand that it shall be not only moral but also sweet 
and healthful and inspiriting. 

After witnessing the admirable performance of 
Mrs. Fiske and the members of her skilfully 
selected company in Henrik Ibsen's dreary and 
depressing Rosmersholm, I went home and sought 
solace from a reperusal of an old play, by the 
buoyant and healthy Thomas Heywood, which is 
sweetly named The Fair Maid of the West. Ros- 
mersholm is of all the social plays of Ibsen the 
least interesting to witness on the stage, because 
the spectator is left entirely in the dark concern- 
ing the character and the motives of Rebecca West 
until her confession at the close of the third act, 
and can therefore understand the play only on 
a second seeing. But except for this important 
structural defect the drama is a masterpiece of art ; 
and it is surely unnecessary to dwell upon its many 
merits. On the other hand, The Fair Maid of the 
West is very far from being masterly in art. In 
structure it is loose and careless ; in characterisa- 
tion it is inconsistent and frequently untrue; in 
style it Is uneven and without distinction. Ibsen, 
in sheer mastery of dramaturgic means, stands 
fourth in rank among the world's great dramatists. 



THE EFFECT OF PLAYS 219 

Heywood was merely an actor with a gift for tell- 
ing stories, who flung together upward of two 
hundred and twenty plays during the course of 
his casual career. And yet The Fair Maid of the 
West seemed to me that evening, and seems to me 
evermore in retrospect, a nobler work than Ros- 
mersholm; for the Norwegian drama gives a dole- 
ful exhibition of unnecessary misery, while the 
Elizabethan play is fresh and wholesome, and 
fragrant with the breath of joy. 

Of two plays equally true in content and in 
treatment, equally accomplished in structure, in 
characterisation, and in style, that one is finally 
the better which evokes from the audience the 
healthiest and hopefullest emotional response. 
This is the reason why (Edipus King is a better 
play than Ghosts. The two pieces are not dis- 
similar in subject and are strikingly alike in art. 
Each is a terrible presentment of a revolting theme ; 
each, like an avalanche, crashes to foredoomed 
catastrophe. But the Greek tragedy is nobler in 
tone, because it leaves us a lofty reverence for 
the gods, whereas its modern counterpart disgusts 
us with the inexorable laws of life, — which are 
only the old gods divested of imagined personality. 

Slowly but surely we are growing very tired of 
dramatists who look upon life with a wry face 
instead of witli a brave and bracing countenance. 
In due time, when (with the help of Mr. Barrie 



220 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

and other healthy -hearted playmates) we have be- 
come again like little children, we shall realise that 
plays like As You Like It are better than all the 
Magdas and the Hedda Gahlers of the contempo- 
rary stage. We shall realise that the way to heal 
old sores is to let them alone, rather than to rip 
them open, in the interest (as we vainly fancy) of 
medical science. We shall remember that the way 
to help the public is to set before it Images of 
faith and hope and love, rather than images of 
doubt, despair, and infidelity. 

The queer thing about the morbid-minded spe- 
cialists in fabricated woe is that they believe them- 
selves to be telling the whole truth of human life 
instead of telling only the worser half of it. They 
expunge from their records of humanity the very 
emotions that make life worth the living, and then 
announce momentously, " Behold reality at last ; 
for this is Life." It is as if, in the midnoon of 
a god-given day of golden spring, they should 
hug a black umbrella down about their heads and 
cry aloud, " Behold, there is no sun ! " Shake- 
speare did that only once, — in Measure for 
Measure. In the deepest of his tragedies, he 
voiced a grandeur even in obliquity, and hymned 
the greatness and the glory of the life of man. 

Suppose that what looks white in a landscape 
painting be actually bluish gray. Perhaps it would 
be best to tell us so ; but failing that, it would 



THE EFFECT OF PLAYS 221 

certainly be better to tell us that it is white than 
to tell us that it is black. If jmr dramatists must 
idealise at all in representing life, let them idealise 
upon the positive rather than upon the negative 
side. It is nobler to tell us that life is better than 
it actually is than to tell us that it is worse. It 
is nobler to remind us of the joy of living than to 
remind us of the weariness. " For to miss the joy 
is to miss all," as Stevenson remarked; and if the 
drama is to be of benefit to the public, it should, 
by its very presence, convey conviction of the truth 
thus nobl}' phrased by Matthew Arnold: 

Yet the will is free: 
Strong is the Soul, and wise, and beautiful: 
The seeds of godlike power are in us still: 
Gods are we. Bards, Saints, Heroes, if we will. — 
Dumb judges, answer, truth or mockery? 



XII 
PLEASANT AND UNPLEASANT PLAYS 

The clever title, Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, 
which Mr. Bernard Shaw selected for the earliest 
issue of his dramatic writings, suggests a theme 
of criticism that Mr. Shaw, in his lengthy pref- 
aces, might profitably have considered if he had 
not preferred to devote his entire space to a dis- 
cussion of his own abilities. In explanation of his 
title, the author stated only that he labeled his 
first three plays Unpleasant for the reason that 
" their dramatic power is used to force the spec- 
tator to face unpleasant facts." This sentence, 
of course, is not a definition, since it merely re- 
peats the word to be explained; and therefore, if 
we wish to find out whether or not an unpleasant 
play is of any real service in the theatre, we shall 
have to do some thinking of our own. 

It is an axiom that all things in the universe 
are interesting. The word interesting means ca- 
pable of awaJcening some activity of human mind; 
and there is no imaginable topic, whether pleasant 
or unpleasant, which is not, in one way, or another, 
capable of this effect. But the activities of the 

222 



PLEASANT AND UNPLEASANT PLAYS 223 

human mind are various, and there are therefore 
several different sorts of interest. The activity of 
mind awakened by music over waters is very dif- 
ferent from that awakened by the binomial theorem. 
Some things interest the intellect, others the emo- 
tions ; and it is only things of prime importance 
that interest them both in equal measure. Now if 
\^e compare the interest of pleasant and unpleasant 
topics, we shall see at once that the activity of 
mind awakened by the former is more complete 
than that awakened by the latter. A pleasant 
topic not only interests the intellect but also elicits 
a positive response from the emotions ; but most 
unpleasant topics are positively interesting to the 
intellect alone. In so far as the emotions respond 
at all to an unpleasant topic, they respond usually 
with a negative activity. Regarding a thing 
which is unpleasant, the healthy mind will feel 
aversion — which is a negative emotion — or else 
will merely think about it with no feeling whatso- 
ever. But regarding a thing which is pleasant, 
the mind may be stirred through the entire gamut 
of positive emotions, rising ultimately to that su- 
preme activity which is Love. This is, of course, 
the philosophic reason why the thinkers of pleasant 
thoughts and dreamers of beautiful dreams stand 
higher in history than those who have thought un- 
pleasantness and have imagined woe. 

Returning now to that clever title of Mr. Shaw's, 



224 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

we may define an unpleasant play as one which 
interests the intellect without at the same time 
awakening a positive response from the emotions ; 
and we may define a pleasant play as one which 
not only stimulates thought but also elicits sym- 
pathy. To any one who has thoroughly consid- 
ered the conditions governing theatric art, it should 
be evident a priori that pleasant plays are better 
suited for service in the theatre than unpleasant 
plays. This truth is clearly illustrated by the 
facts of Mr. Shaw's career. As a matter of his- 
tory, it will be remembered that his vogue in our 
theatres has been confined almost entirely to his 
pleasant plays. All four of them have enjoyed a 
profitable run ; and it is to Candida, the best of 
his pleasant plays, that, in America at least, he 
owes his fame. Of the three unpleasant plays, The 
Philanderer has never been produced at all; Wid- 
ower's Houses has been given only in a series of 
special matinees; and Mrs. Warren's Profession, 
though it was enormously advertised by the fatuous 
interference of the police, failed to interest the 
public when ultimately it was offered for a run. 

Mrs. Warren's Profession is just as interesting 
to the thoughtful reader as Candida. It is built 
with the same technical efficiency, and written with 
the same agility and wit; it is just as sound and 
true, and therefore just as moral; and as a criti- 
cism, not so much of life as of society, it is in- 



PLEASANT AND UNPLEASANT PLAYS 225 

dubitably more important. Why, then, is Candida 
a better work? The reason is that the unpleasant 
play is interesting merely to the intellect and leaves 
the audience cold, whereas the pleasant play is 
interesting also to the emotions and stirs the audi- 
ence to sympathy. It is possible for the public to 
feel sorry for Morell; it is even possible for them 
to feel sorry for Marchbanks : but it is absolutely 
impossible for them to feel sorry for Mrs. Warren. 
The multitude instinctively demands an oppor- 
tunity to sympathise with the characters presented 
in the theatre. Since the drama is a democratic 
art, and the dramatist is not the monarch but the 
servant of the public, the voice of the people 
should, in this mailer of pleasant and unpleasant 
plays, be considered the voice of the gods. This 
thesis seems to me axiomatic and unsusceptible of 
argument. Yet since it is continuall}' denied by 
the professed " uplifters " of the stage, who per- 
sist in looking down upon the public and decrying 
the wisdom of the many, it may be necessary to ex- 
plain the eternal principle upon which it is based. 
The truth must be self-evident that theatre-goers 
are endowed with a certain inalienable right — 
namely, the pursuit of hapj)iness. The pursuit of 
happiness is the most important thing in the world ; 
because it is nothing less than an endeavor to un- 
derstand and to appreciate the true, the beautiful, 
and the good. Happiness comes of loving things 



226 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

which are worthy ; a man is happy in proportion to 
the number of things which he has learned to love; 
and he, of all men, is most happy who loveth best 
all things both great and small. For happiness 
is the feeling of harmony between a man and his 
surroundings, the sense of being at home in the 
universe and brotherly toward all worthy things 
that are. The pursuit of happiness is simply 
a continual endeavor to discover new things that 
are worthy, to the end that they may waken love 
within us and thereby lure us loftier toward an 
ultimate absolute awareness of truth and beauty. 
It is in this simple, sane pursuit that people go 
to the theatre. The important thing about the 
public is that it has a large and longing heart. 
That heart demands that sympathy be awakened 
in it, and will not be satisfied with merely intel- 
lectual discussion of unsympathetic things. It is 
therefore the duty, as well as the privilege, of the 
dramatist to set before the public incidents which 
may awaken sympathy and characters which may 
be loved. He is the most important artist in the 
theatre who gives the public most to care about. 
This is the reason why Joseph Jefferson's Rip 
Van Winkle must be rated as the greatest creation 
of the American stage. The play was shabby 
as a work of art, and there was nothing even in 
the character to think about; but every perform- 



PLEASANT AND UNPLEASANT PLAYS 227 

ance of the part left thousands happier, because 
their lives had been enriched with a new memory 
that made their hearts grow warm with sympathy 
and large with love. 



XIII 
THEMES IN THE THEATRE 

As the final curtain falls upon the majority of 
the plays that somehow get themselves presented 
in the theatres of New York, the critical observer 
feels tempted to ask the playwright that simple 
question of young Peterkin in Robert Southey's 
ballad, After Blenheim, — " Now tell us what 't 
was all about " ; and he suffers an uncomfortable 
feeling that the playwright will be obliged to an- 
swer in the words of old Kaspar, " Why, that I 
cannot tell." The critic has viewed a semblance 
of a dramatic struggle between puppets on the 
stage ; but what they fought each other for he can- 
not well make out. And it is evident, in the ma- 
jority of cases, that the playwright could not tell 
him if he would, for the reason that the play- 
wright does not know. Not even the author can 
know what a play is all about when the play isn't 
about anything. And this, it must be admitted, 
is precisely what is wrong with the majority of the 
plays that are shown in our theatres, especially 
with plays written by American authors. They 

228 



THEMES IN THE THEATRE 229 

are not about anything; or, to say the matter 
more technically, they haven't any theme. 

By a theme is meant some eternal principle, or 
truth, of human life — such a truth as might be 
stated by a man of philosophic mind in an abstract 
and general proposition — which the dramatist 
contrives to convey to his auditors concretely by 
embodying it in the particular details of his play. 
These details must be so selected as to represent 
at every point some phase of the central and in- 
forming truth, and no incidents or characters must 
be shown which are not directly or indirectly rep- 
resentative of the one thing which, in that par- 
ticular piece, the author has to say. The great 
plays of the world have all grown endogenously 
from a single, central idea ; or, to vary the figure, 
they have been spun like spider-webs, filament after 
filament, out of a central living source. But most 
of our native playwrights seem seldom to experi- 
ence this necessary process of the imagination 
which creates. Instead of working from the in- 
side out, they work from the outside in. They 
gather up a haphazard handful of theatric situa- 
tions and try to string them together into a story ; 
they congregate an ill-assorted company of char- 
acters and try to achieve a play by letting them 
talk to each other. Many of our playwrights are 
endowed with a sense of situation ; several of them 
have a gift for characterisation, or at least for 



230 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

caricature; and most of them can write easy and 
natural dialogue, especially in slang. But very 
few of them start out with something to say, as 
Mr. Moody started out in The Great Divide and 
Mr. Thomas in The Witching Hour. 

When a play is really about something, it is 
always possible for the critic to state the theme 
of it in a single sentence. Thus, the theme of 
The Witching Hour is that every thought is in it- 
self an act, and that therefore thinking has the 
virtue, and to some extent the power, of action. 
Every character in the piece was invented to em- 
body some phase of this central proposition, and 
every incident was devised to represent this ab- 
stract truth concretely. Similarly, it would be 
easy to state in a single sentence the theme of 
Le Tartufe, or of Othello, or of Ghosts. But 
who, after seeing four out of five of the American 
plays that are produced upon Broadway, could 
possibly tell in a single sentence what they were 
about.? What, for instance — to mention only 
plays which did not fail — was Via Wireless 
about, or The Fighting Hope, or even The Man 
from Home? Each of these was in some ways an 
interesting entertainment; but each was valueless 
as drama, because none of them conveyed to its 
auditors a theme which they might remember and 
weave into the texture of their lives. 



THEMES IN THE THEATRE 231 

For the only sort of play that permits itself to 
be remembered is a play that presents a distinct 
theme to the mind of the observer. It is ten years 
since I have seen Le Tartufe and six years since 
last I read it ; and yet, since the theme is unf orget- 
able, I could at any moment easily reconstruct 
the piece by retrospective imagination and sum- 
marise the action clearly' in a paragraph. But 
on the other hand, I should at any time find it im- 
possible to recall with sufficient clearness to sum- 
marise them, any of a dozen American plays of 
the usual type which I had seen within the preced- 
ing six months. Details of incident or of charac- 
ter or of dialogue slip the mind and melt away like 
smoke into the air. To have seen a play without 
a theme is the same, a month or two later, as not 
to have seen a play at all. But a piece like The 
Second Mrs. Tanqueray, once seen, can never be 
forgotten ; because the mind clings to the central 
proposition which the play was built in order to 
reveal, and from this ineradicable recollection may 
at any moment proceed by psychologic association 
to recall the salient concrete features of the ac- 
tion. To develop a play from a central theme 
is therefore the sole means by which a dramatist 
may insure his work against the iniquity of ob- 
livion. In order that people may afterward re- 
member what he has said, it is necessary for him 



232 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

to show them clearly and emphatically at the out- 
set why he has undertaken to talk and precisely 
what he means to talk about. 

Most of our American playwrights, like Juliet 
in the balcony scene, speak, yet they say nothing. 
They represent facts, but fail to reveal truths. 
What they lack Is purpose. They collect, instead 
of meditating; they invent, Instead of wondering; 
they are clever, instead of being real. They are 
avid of details: they regard the part as greater 
than the whole. They deal with outsldes and sur- 
faces, not with centralities and profundities. They 
value acts more than they value the meanings of 
acts; they forget that It Is In the motive rather 
than In the deed that Life Is to be looked for. 
For Life Is a matter of thinking and of feeling; 
all act Is merely Living, and Is significant only 
in so far as It reveals the Life that prompted It. 
Give us less of Living, more of Life, must ever 
be the cry of earnest criticism. Enough of these 
mutitudlnous, multifarious facts: tell us single, 
simple truths. Give us more themes, and fewer 
fabrics of shreds and patches. 



XIV 
THE FUNCTION OF IMAGINATION 

Whenever the spring comes round and every- 
thing beneath the sun looks wonderful and new, 
the habitual theatre-goer, who has attended every 
legitimate performance throughout the winter sea- 
son in New York, is moved to lament that there 
is nothing new behind the footlights. Week after 
week he has seen the same old puppets pulled me- 
chanically through the same old situations, doing 
conventional deeds and repeating conventional 
lines, until at last, as he watches the performance 
of yet another p.lay, he feels like saying to the 
author, " But, my dear sir, I have seen and heard 
all this so many, many times already ! " For this 
spring-weariness of the frequenter of the theatre, 
the common run of our contemporary playwrights 
must be held responsible. The main trouble seems 
to be that, instead of telling us what they think life 
is hke, they tell us what they think a play is like. 
Their fault is not — to use Hamlet's phrase — 
that they "imitate humanity so abominably": it 
is, rather, that they do not imitate humanity at 

233 



234 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

all. Most of our playwrights, especially the new- 
comers to the craft, imitate each other. They 
make plays for the sake of making plays, instead 
of for the sake of representing life. They draw 
their inspiration from the little mimic world be- 
hind the footlights, rather than from the roaring 
and tremendous world which takes no thought of 
the theatre. Their art fails to interpret life, be- 
cause they care less about life than they care about 
their art. They are interested in what they are 
doing, instead of being interested in why they are 
doing it. " Go to ! ", they say to themselves, " I 
will write a play " ; and the weary auditor is 
tempted to murmur the sentence of the cynic 
Frenchman, " Je fCen vols pas la necessite." 

But now, lest we be led into misapprehension, 
let us understand clearly that what we desire in the 
theatre is not new material, but rather a fresh and 
vital treatment of such material as the playwright 
finds made to his hand. After a certain philo- 
sophic critic had announced the startling thesis 
that only some thirty odd distinct dramatic situa- 
tions were conceivable, Goethe and Schiller set 
themselves the task of tabulation, and ended by 
deciding that the largest conceivable number was 
less than twenty. It is a curious paradox of crit- 
icism that for new plays old material is best. 
This statement is supported historically by the 
fact that all the great Greek dramatists, nearly all 



THE FUNCTION OF IMAGINATION 235 

of the Elizabethans, Corneille, Racine, Moliere, 
and, to a great extent, the leaders of the drama 
in the nineteenth century, made their plays delib- 
erately out of narrative materials already familiar 
to the theatre-going public of their times. The 
drama, by its very nature, is an art traditional in 
form and resumptive in its subject-matter. It 
would be futile, therefore, for us to ask con- 
temporary playwrights to invent new narrative 
materials. Their fault is not that they deal with 
what is old, but that they fail to make out of it 
anything which is new. If, in the long run, they 
weary us, the reason is not that they are lacking 
in invention, but that they are lacking in imagina- 
tion. 

That invention and imagination are two very 
different faculties, that the second is much higher 
than the first, that invention has seldom been dis- 
played by the very greatest authors, whereas im- 
agination has always been an indispensable char- 
acteristic of their work, — these points have all 
been made clear in a very suggestive essay by Pro- 
fessor Brander Matthews, which is included in his 
volume entitled Inquiries and Opinions. It re- 
mains for us to consider somewhat closely what 
the nature of imagination is. Imagination is 
nothing more or less than the faculty for realisO'- 
tion, — the faculty by which the mind makes real 
unto itself such materials as arc presented to it. 



236 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

The full significance of this definition may be made 
clear by a simple illustration. 

Suppose that some morning at breakfast you 
pick up a newspaper and read that a great earth- 
quake has overwhelmed Messina, killing countless 
thousands and rendering an entire province deso- 
late. You say, " How very terrible ! " — after 
which you go blithely about your business, un- 
troubled, undisturbed. But suppose that your 
little girl's pet pussy-cat happens to fall out of 
the fourth-story window. If you chance to be an 
author and have an article to write that morning, 
you will find the task of composition heavy. 
Now, the reason why the death of a single pussy- 
cat affects you more than the death of a hundred 
thousand human beings is merely that you realise 
the one and do not realise the other. You do not, 
by the action of imagination, make real unto your- 
self the disaster at Messina ; but when you see your 
little daughter's face, you at once and easily im- 
agine woe. Similarly, on the largest scale, we go 
through life realising only a very little part of 
all that is presented to our minds. Yet, finally, 
we know of life only so much as we have realised. 
To use the other word for the same idea, — we 
know of life only so much as we have imagined. 
Now, whatever of life we make real unto ourselves 
by the action of imagination is for us fresh and 
instant and, in a deep sense, new, — even though 



THE FUNCTION OF IMAGINATION 237 

the same materials have been reahsed by miUions 
of human beings before us. It is new because we 
have made it, and we are different from all our 
predecessors. Landor imagined Italy, realised it, 
made it instant and afresh. In the subjective 
sense, he created Italy, an Italy that had never 
existed before, — Lander's Italy. Later Brown- 
ing came, with a new imagination, a new realisa- 
tion, a new creation, — Browning's Italy. The 
materials had existed through immemorable cen- 
turies ; Landor, by imagination, made of them 
something real ; Browning imagined them again 
and made of them something new. But a Cook's 
tourist hurrying through Italy is likely, through 
deficiency of imagmation, not to realise an Italy 
at all. He reviews the same materials that were 
presented to Landor and to Browning, but he makes 
nothing out of them. Italy for him is tedious, 
like a twice-told tale. The trouble is not that the 
materials are old, but that he lacks the faculty for 
realising them and thereby making of them some- 
thing new. 

A great many of our contemporary playwrights 
travel like Cook's tourists through the traditional 
subject-matter of the theatre. They stop off here 
and there, at this or that eternal situation; but 
they do not, by imagination, make it real. 
Thereby they miss the proper function of the 
dramatist, which is to imagine some aspect of the 



238 THE THEORY OF THE THEATRE 

perennial struggle between human wills so forci- 
bly as to make us realise it, in the full sense of the 
word, — realise it as we daily fail to realise the 
countless struggles we ourselves engage in. The 
theatre, rightly considered, is not a place in which 
to escape from the realities of life, but a place in 
which to seek refuge from the unrealities of ac- 
tual living in the contemplation of life real ised, — 
life made real by imagination. 

The trouble with most ineifective plays is that 
the fabricated life they set before us is less real 
than such similar phases of actual life as we have 
previously realised for ourselves. We are wearied 
because we have already unconsciously imagined 
more than the playwright professionally imagines 
for us. With a great play our experience is the 
reverse of this. Incidents, characters, motives 
which we ourselves have never made completely 
real by imagination are realised for us by the 
dramatist. Intimations of humanity which in our 
own minds have lain jumbled fragmentary, like 
the multitudinous pieces of a shuffled picture-puz- 
zle, are there set orderly before us, so that we see 
at last the perfect picture. We escape out of 
chaos into life. 

This is the secret of originality : this it is that 
we desire in the theatre : — not new material, for 
the old is still the best; but familiar material ren- 
dered new by an imagination that informs it with 
significance and makes it real. 



INDEX 



INDEX 



Adams, Maude, 60. 

Addison, Joseph, 79; Cato, 
79. 

Ade, George, 56; Fables in 
Slang, 56; The College 
Widow, 41. 

Admirable Crichton, The, 
113. 

jEschylus, 5, 6, 135. 

After Blenheim, 228, 

Aiglon, U, 67, 68. 

Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire, 157. 

Allen, Viola, 109. 

Alleyn, Edward, 163. 

All for Love, 17. 

Alma-Tadema, Sir Law- 
rence, 92. 

Antony, 140, 142. 

Antony and Cleopatra, 16. 

Aristophanes, 202. 

Aristotle, 18. 

Arnold, .Matthew, 8, 19, 205, 
221. 

As You Like It, 38, 48, 51, 
61, 62, 77, 78, 92, 100, 172, 
186, 220. 

Atalanta in Cahjdon, 20. 

Augier, Kniilf-, 9, 141. 

Autobioyrrtphy of Joseph 
Jefferson, 103. 

Autocrat of the Breakfast- 
Table, The, 178. 

Bannister, John, 86. 
Banville, Th(!odore dc, 66. 
Barrie, James Matthew, 204, 
205, 206, 219; Alice-Sit- 

2 



by-the-Fire, 157; Peter 
Pan, 215; The Admirable 
Crichton, 113; The Pro- 
fessor's Love Story, 157. 

Barry, Elizabeth, 70, 80. 

Barrymore, Ethel, 157. 

Bartholomew Fair, 202. 

Beau Brummel, 70, 114, 210. 

Beaumont, Francis, 28; Th« 
Maid's Tragedy, 28. 

Becket, 19, 72. 

Bejart, Armande, 62, 63, 71. 

B^jart, Magdeleine, 62, 71. 

Belasco, David, 155; The 
Darling of the Gods, 42; 
The Girl of the Golden 
West, 90. 

Bells, The, 125. 

Bensley, Robert, 86. 

Bernhardt, Sarah, 40, 64, 65, 
66, 68, 105, 107. 

Betterton, Thomas, 70. 

Blot in the 'Scutcheon, A, 
31, 56. 

Boucicault, Dion, 70, 83; 
London Assurance, 83; 
Rip Van Winkle, 70. 

Brown of Harvard, 155. 

Browne, Sir Thomas, 177; 
Reliyio Mtdici, 31. 

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 
19, 205. 

Browning, Robert, 10, 19, 
31, 32, 237; A Blot in the 
'Scutcheon, 31, 56; A Wo- 
man's Last Word, 32; In 



41 



242 



INDEX 



a Balcony, 10; Pippa 

Passes, 31, 194. 
Brunetiere, Ferdinand, 35. 
Bulwer-Lytton, Sir Edward, 

79; Richelieu, 79. 
Burbage, James, 77. 
Burbage, Richard, 60, 61, 79, 

93. 
Burke, Charles, 103. 
Burton, William E., 103. 
Byron, George Gordon, 

Lord, 19. 

Calderon, Don Pedro C. de 

la Barca, 26, 50. 
Campbell, Mrs. Patrick, 66, 

69. 
Candida, 224,, 225. 
Cato, 79. 
Cenci, The, 144. 
Charles I, 72. 
Chinese theatre, 78. 
Chorus Lady, The, 22. 
Christ in Hades, 197. 
Gibber, Colley, 63, 85, 164. 
Cittd Morta, La, 12. 
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 

19. 
College Widow, The, 41. 
Collins, Wilkie, 121. 
Colvin, Sidney, 170. 
Comedy of Errors, The, 38. 
Commedia delVarte, 10, 11. 
Congreve, William, 9, 164. 
Conquest of Granada, The, 

74. 
Coquelin, Constant, 60, 66, 

67, 68, 71, 105. 
Corneille, Pierre, 50, 235, 
Cromwell, 64. 
Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, 

182. 
Cymbeline, 17, 63. 
Cyrano de Bergerac, 31, 56, 

60, 67, 71, 98, 100, 105, 

121, 195. 



Dame aux CamMias, La, 14, 
37, 53, 105, 141, 146, 

Dante Alighieri, 162, 188; 
Inferno, 188. 

Darling of the Gods, The, 42, 

Darwin, Charles, 21, 

Davenant, Sir William, 80, 

Dekker, Thomas, 202. 

Demi-Monde, Le, 141. 

Dennery, Adolphe, 6, 175; 
The Two Orphans, 6, 31, 
32, 37, 175. 

Diplomacy, 101. 

Doll's House, A, 47, 53, 146, 
158, 

Don Quixote, 59. 

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, 22; 
Sherlock Holmes, 22, 157; 
The Story of Waterloo, 
157, 

Dr. Faustus, 136, 137. 

Dryden, John, 16, 17, 73; All 
for Love, 17; The Con- 
quest of Granada, 74. 

Duchess of Malfi, The, 130. 

Du Croisy, 62, 63. 

Dumas, Alexandre, fils, 14; 
La Dam,e aux Camelias, 
14, 37, 53, 105, 141, 146; 
Le Demi-Monde, 141 ; Le 
Fils Naturel, 142. 

Dumas, Alexandre, pere, 
140; Antony, 140, 142. 

Duse, Eleanora, 65, 71. 

Echegaray, Don Jos^, 187, 

188, 189; El Gran Galeoto, 

187-192. 
Egoist, The, 31. 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 202, 
Enemy of the People, An, 

137, 201. 
Etherege, Sir George, 82. 
Euripides, 131. 
Every Man in His Humour, 

100, 



INDEX 



243 



Fables in Slang, 56. 

Fair Maid of the West, 218, 
219. 

Faiixt, 31. 

Fed II, -a, 65. 

Fi (fitting Hope, The, 230. 

Fi'ls Saturel, Le, 142. 

Fiske, John, MS. 

Fiske, Mrs. Minnie Maddern, 
7, 87, 102, 115, 218. 

Fitch, Clyde, 13. 70, 89, 90, 
159; Beau Brummel, 70, 
114, 210; The Girl with the 
Green Eyes, 159. 

Fletcher, John, 28, 48, 61; 
The Maid's Tragedy, 28. 

Forbes, James, 22; The 
Chorvs Lady, 22. 

Forbes-Robertson, John- 
stone, 7, 92, 125. 

Fourberies de Scapin, Les, 
51. 

Frou-Frou, 43, 141. 

Gay Lord Quex, The, 120, 

134, 213. 
Ghosts, 53, 142, 144, 145, 215, 

219, 230. 
Gillette, William, 22, 121; 

Sherlock Holmes, 22, 121. 
Girl of the Golden West, 

The, 90. 
Oirl with the Green Eyes, 

The, 159. 
Gismonda, 65. 
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang 

von, 234; Faust, 31. 
Gorhoduc, 73. 

GoKsip on Romance, A, 128. 
Gran Galeoto, El, 187-192. 
Great Divide, The, 230. 
Greene. I{i)l)crl, 4K. (il. 
Greet, Ben, 75, 109, 110. 

Hamlet, 8, 12, 38, 39, 48, 51, 
55, 60, 61, 67, 68, 71, 79, hi), 



92, 100, 101, 105, 106, 107, 

115, 118, 121, 122, 130, 136, 
175, 177, 181, 184, 185, 187, 
194, 203, 233. 

Haworth. Joseph, 104. 
Hedda Gablcr, 37, 5.3, 87, 

102, 115, 117, 120, 145, 158, 

181, 215, 220. 
Henry V, 41, 77. 
Henslowe, Philip, 164. 
Hernani, 14, 140. 
Heme, James A., 87; Shore 

Acres, 87, 193. 
Hero and Leander, 171. 
Heyse, Paul, 7, 116; Mary of 

ilagdala, 7, 116. 
Heywood, Thomas, 38, 39, 

202, 218, 219; A Woman 

Killed tcith Kindness, 38; 

The Fair Maid of the 

West, 218, 219. 
" Hope, Laurence," 206. 
Hour Glass, The, 56. 
Howard, Bronson, 108, 157; 

Shenandoah, 101, 108, 157. 
Howells, William Dean. 153. 
Hufro, Victor, 14, 15, 52, 64, 

116, 118, 135, 140; Crom- 
well, 64; Hernani, 14, 140; 
Marion Delorme, 14, 116; 
Ruy Bias, 52. 

Ibsen, Henrik, 18, 25, 47, 88, 
102, 117, 120, 123, 131, 133, 
135, 137, 141, 145, 147, 148, 
158, 218; A Doll's House, 
47, 53, 146, 158; An En- 
emij of the People, 137, 
201; Ghosts, 53, 142, 144, 
145, 215. 219, 230; Iledda 
Gahler, 37, 53, 87. 102, 115, 

117, 120, 145. 15H. 181, 215, 
220; .fohii Gabriel linrk- 
nittn, 123, 112; Ladi/ Inger 
of Oslrdt, 19; Peer Gynt, 
31; Rosmersholm, 117, 218, 



244 



INDEX 



219; The MasUr Builder, 

56, 158; The Wild Duck, 

147. 
Idylls of the King, 195. 
In a Balcony, 10. 
Inferno, 188. 
Inquiries and Opinions, 108, 

235. 
Iris, 53. 
Irving, Sir Henry, 19, 71, 72, 

105, 106, 124, 157. 
Irving, Washington, 70; Bip 

Van Winkle, 70. 

James, Henry, 32. 

Jeanne d'Arc. 193, 194, 196, 
197. 

Jefferson, Joseph, 70, 103, 
210, 226; Autobiography, 
103; Rip Van Winkle, 70, 
210, 226. 

Jerome, Jerome K., 125; The 
Passing of the Third Floor 
Back, 125. 

Jew of Malta, The, 136. 

John Gabriel Borkman, 123, 
142. 

Jones, Henry Arthur, 69, 
120, 123; Mrs. Dane's De- 
fense, 120; Whitewashing 
Julia, 123. 

Jonson, Ben, 74, 100, 117, 
202, 203; Bartholomew 
Fair, 202; Every Man in 
II is Humour, 100. 

Julius Ccesar, 104, 125. 

Keats, John, 19; Ode to a 

Nightingale, 31. 
Kennedy, Charles Rann, 23, 

45, 46, 47; The Servant in 

the House, 23, 45, 46. 
Killigrew, Thomas, 79. 
King John, 119. 
King Lear, 17, 36, 43, 136, 

174, 197. 



Kipling, Rudyard, 5S; They, 

52. 
Klein, Charles, 155; The 

Lion and the Mouse, 203; 

The Music Master, 23, 154. 
Knowles, Sheridan, 79; Vir- 

ginius, 79. 
Kyd, Thomas, 48, 131; The 

Spanish Tragedy, 76. 

Lady Inger of Ostrdt, 19. 
Lady Windermere's Fan, 89. 
La Grange, 62, 63, 71. 
Lamb, Charles, 85, 200. 
Landor, Walter Savage, 237. 
Launcelot of the Lake, 188. 
Lear, see King Lear. 
Leatherstocking Tales, 59. 
Le Bon, Gustave, 34, 49; 

Psychologie des Foides, 34. 
Lee, Nathaniel, 70. 
Letty, 37, 53. 
Lincoln, 74. 
Lion and the Mouse, The, 

203. 
London Assurance, 83. 
Lope de Vega, 51. 
Lord Chamberlain's Men, 60. 
Love's Labour's Lost, 48. 
Lyly, John, 48, 61. 
Lyons Mail, The, 38. 

Macbeth, 17, 36, 43, 76, 77, 

98, 118, 136, 144, 195. 
Mackaye, Percy, 193, 196, 

197; Jeanne d'Arc, 193, 

194, 196, 197. 
Macready, William Charles, 

32. 
Maeterlinck, Maurice, 31; 

PMleas and MMisande, 56. 
Magda, 53, 220. 
Maid's Tragedy, The, 28. 
Main, La, 10. 

Man and Superman, 47, 74. 
Man from Home, The, 230. 



INDEX 



245 



Man of the Hour, The, 203. 

Mansfield, Richard, 41, 70, 
104, 106, 1-25. 

Marion Delorme, 14, 116. 

Marlowe, Christopher, 48, 73, 
135, 137, 163, 171; Dr. 
Faustus, 136, 137; Hero 
and Leander, 171; The 
Jew of Malta, 136; Tam- 
burlaine the Great, 73, 136. 

Marlowe, Julia, 61. 

Marpessa, 195. 

Mary of Magdala, 7, 116. 

Mason, John, 63. 

Massinger, Philip, 7. 

Master Builder, The, 56, 158. 

Mathews, Charles James, 82. 

Matthews, Brander, 67, 108, 
235; Inquiries and Opin- 
ions, 108, 235. 

Measure for Measure, 220. 

Medecin MaJgri Lui, Le, 132. 

Merchant of Venice, The, 61, 

62, 77, 78, 109, 110. 
Meredith, George, 52; The 

Egoist, 31. 

Merry Wives of Windsor, 
The, 215. 

Middleton, Thomas, 202. 

Miller, Henrj', 16, 155. 

Milton, John, 52; Samson 
Agonistes, 31. 

Misanthrope, Le, 63, 132, 
175. 

Modjeska, Helena, 65, 91. 

Moliere, J.-B. Poquelin de, 
9, 17, 18, 25, 26, 32, 43, 
48, 50, 55, 60, 62, 63, 71, 
132, 163, 171, 172, 175, 235; 
Les Fourberies de Scapin, 
51; Le Medecin Malgri 
Lui, 132; Le Misnnlhrojie, 

63, 132, 175; Les Pr^- 
cieuses Ridicules, 60, 63; 
Le Tartufe, 100, 116, 230, 
231. 



Moliere, Mile., see Armande 

Bejart. 
Moody, William Vaughn, 

230; The Great Divide, 

230. 
Mounet-Sullv, 181. 
Mrs. Dane's Defense, 120. 
Mrs. Leffingwell's Boots, 16. 
Mrs. Warren's Profession, 

■22\, 225. 
Much Ado About Nothing, 

36, 99. 
Music Master, The, 23, 154. 
Musketeers, The, 121. 

Nazimova, Alia, 158, 195, 

196, 197. 
Nicholas Nickleby, 90. 
Nietsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 

47. 
Nos Intimes, 64. 
Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith, 

The, 53, 120, 142, 
Novell!, Ermete, 154. 

Ode to a Nightingale, 31. 

(Edipus King, 25, 38, 60, 100, 
144, 181, 219. 

Orphan, The, 70. 

Othello, 17, 21, 37, 43, 51, 56, 
58, 99, 136, 144, 154, 194, 
230. 

Otway, Thomas, 70; The Or- 
phan, 70; Venice Pre- 
served, 70. 

Paestum, Temple at, 208. 
Paolo and Francesca, 194. 
Passing of the Third Floor 

Back, The, 125. 
Patrie, 64, 66. 
Paltes de Mouche, Les, 64. 
Peer Gynt, 31. 
PilUas and Milisande, 56. 
Peter Pan, 215. 
Philanderer, The, 224. 



246 



INDEX 



Phillips, Stephen, 19, 193, 
194, 195, 197; Christ in 
Hades, 197 ; Marpessa, 
195; Paolo and Francesco, 
194. 

Philosophy of Style, 95. 

Pinero, Sir Arthur Wing, 19, 
25, 69, 88, 93, 1:20, 158, 212, 
213; Iris, 53; Letty, 37, 
53; The Gay Lord Quex, 
120, 134, 213; The Noto- 
rious Mrs. Ebbsmith, 53, 
120, 142; The Second Mrs. 
Tanqueray, 53, 56, 69, 120, 
141, 193, 231; The Wife 
Without a Smile, 213; 
Trelatcny of the Wells, 87. 

Pippa Passes, 31, 194. 

Plautus, 35, 50. 

Plays Pleasant and Unpleas- 
ant, 222. 

Plutarch, 17. 

Praxiteles, 207, 211. 

Pr^cieuses Ridicules, Les, 60, 
63. 

Professor's Love Story, The, 
157. 

Psychologie des Foules, 34. 

Quintessence of Ibsenism, 
The, 143. 

Racine, Jean, 50, 235. 

Raffles, 37. 

Raphael, 162; Sistine Ma- 
donna, 30. 

Regnard, J.-F., 9. 

Rehan, Ada, 61. 

Religio Medici, 31. 

Richard III, 48. 

Richelieu, 79. 

Rip Van Winkle, 70, 210, 
226. 

Rivals, The, 132, 160. 

Romanesques, Les, 66. 



Romeo and Juliet, 61, 76, 
174, 232. 

Romola, 59. 

Rose of the Rancho, The, 42, 
155. 

Rosmersholm, 117, 218, 219. 

Rossetti, Christina Georgina, 
206. 

Rostand, Edmond, 9, 66, 67, 
68, 71; Cyrano de Ber- 
gerac, 31, 56, 60, 67, 71, 98, 
100, 105, 121, 195; L'Aig- 
lon, 67, 68; Les Roman- 
esques, 66. 

Round Up, The, 41. 

Ruy Bias, 52. 

Saint-Gaudens, Augustus, 

153. 
Samson Agonistes, 31. 
Sappho, 205. 
Sarcey, Francisque, 122. 
Sardou, Victorian, 12, 18, 19, 

64, 65, 66; Diplomacy, 
101; FMora, 65; Ois- 
monda, 65; Nos Intimes, 
64; Patrie, 64, 66; La Sor- 
cidre, 65, 66; La Tosca, 40, 

65, 105; Les Pattes d« 
Mouche, 64. 

Sargent, John Singer, 153. 
Schiller, Johann Christoph 

Friedrich, 234. 
School for Scandal, The, 40, 

55, 64, 86, 101, 105, 123, 

132. 
Schopenhauer, Arthur, 47. 
Scott, Sir Walter, 19. 
Scrap of Paper, The, 64. 
Scribe, Eugene, 19, 53, 64, 98. 
Second Mrs. Tanqueray, The, 

53, 56, 69, 120, 141, 193, 

231. 
Servant in the House, The, 

23, 45, 46, 47. 



INDEX 



247 



Shakespeare, William, 7, 16, 
17, 18, 25, -26, 32, 36, 43, 
44, 47, 48, 51, 55, 57, 58, 

60, 61, 62, 71, 75, 93, 109, 
113, 115, lis, 119, 1:20, 122, 
130, 13:2, 135, 136, 154, 157, 
158, 163, 172, 197, 202, 220; 
Antony and Cleopatra, 16; 
As You Like It, 38, 48, 51, 

61, 62, 77, 78, 92, 100, 172, 
186, 220; Cymbeline, 17, 
62; Hamlet, 8, 12, 38, 39, 
48, 51, 55, 60, 61, 67, 68, 71, 
79, 89, 92, 100, 101, 105, 
106, 107, 115, 118, 121, 122, 
130, 136, 175, 177, 181, 184, 
185, 187, 194, 203, 233; 
Henry V, 41, 77; Julius 
C(psar, 104, 125; King 
John, 119; King Lear, 17, 
36, 43, 136, 174, 197; 
Love's Labour's Lost, 48; 
Macbeth, 17, 36, 43, 76, 77, 
98, 118, 136, 144, 195; 
Measure for Measure, 220; 
Much Ado About y-:'thing, 
36, 99; Othello, 17, 21, 37, 
43, 51, 56, 58, 99, 136, 144, 
154, 194, 230; Richard III, 
48; Romeo and Juliet, 61, 

76, 174, 232; The Comedy 
of Errors, 38; The Mer- 
chant of Venice, 61, 62, 

77, 78, 109, 110; The 
Merry Wives of Windsor, 
215; The Tempest, 48, 215; 
Twelfth Mght, 36, 62, 78, 
92, 109, 110, 197, 198; Two 
Gentlemen of Verona, 61. 

Shaw, Geor)re Bernard, 43, 
47, U:J, 147, 222, 223, 224; 
Candida, 224, 225; Man 
and Superman, 47, 74; 
Mrs. Warren's Profession, 
224, 225; Plays Pleasant 
and Unpleasant, 222; The 



Philanderer, 224; The 
Quintessence of Ibsenism, 
143; Widower's Houses, 
22i. 

Shellev, Percy Bvsshe, 19, 
144; The Cenci, "144. 

Shenandoah, 101, 108, 157, 

Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 
9, 64, 82, 123, 160; The 
Rivals, 132, 160; The 
School for Scandal, 40, 55, 
64, 86, 101, 105, 123, 132. 

Sherlock Holmes, 22, 121, 
157, 

She Stoops to Conquer, 38. 

Shore Acres, 87, 193. 

Sidney, Sir Philip, 73. 

Sistine Madonna, 30. 

Skinner, Otis, 91. 

Socrates, 201. 

Song of Myself, 183. 

Song of the Open Road, 217. 

Sonnenthal, Adolf von, 106. 

Sophocles, 32, 60, 131, 135; 
(Edipus King, 25, 38, 60, 
100, 144, 181, 219. 

Sorci^re, La, 65, 66. 

Sothern, Edward U., 106, 
107. 

Southey, Robert, 19, 228; 
After Blenheim, 228. 

Spanish Tragedy, The, 76. 

Spencer, Herbert, 95; Phi- 
losophy of Style, 95. 

Stevenson, Robert Louis, 31, 
128, 170, 214, 221; A Gos- 
sip on Romance, 128; 
Treasure Island, 33. 

Story of Waterloo, The, 157. 

Strongheart, 41. 

Sunken Hell, The, 194. 

Sweet Kitty Bellairs, 86. 

Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 
19; Atalanta in Calydon, 
20. 



248 



INDEX 



Talma, 64, 71. 

Tamburlaine the Great, 73, 

136. 
Tartufe, he, 100, 116, 230, 

231. 
Tears, Idle Tears, 195. 
Tempest, The, 48, 215. 
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, 19, 

31, 72, 193, 195, 196; 

Becket, 19, 72; Idylls of 

the King, 195; Tears, Idh 

Tears, 195. 
Terence, 26, 35, 50. 
Thackeray, William Make- 
piece, 35. 
They, 52. 
Thomas, Augustus, 16, 45, 

46, 63, 203, 230; Mrs. 

Leffingwell's Boots, 16; 

The Witching Hour, 16, 

45, 46, 63, 203, 230. 
Tosca, La, 40, 65, 105. 
Treasure Island, 33. 
Tree, Sir Herbert Beerbohm, 

119, 121. 
Trelawny of the Wells, 87. 
Troupe de Monsieur, 62. 
Tully, Richard Walton, 155; 

The Rose of the Rancho, 

42, 155. 
Twelfth Night, 36, 62, 78, 92, 

109, 110, 197, 198. 
Ttro Gentlemen of Verona, 

61. 
Two Orphans, The, 6, 31, 32, 

37, 175. 

Venice Preserved, 70. 
Venus of Melos, 30. 
Vestris, Madame, 82. 
Via Wireless, 230. 
Virginius, 79. 



Voltaire, Frangois Marie 
Arouet de, 14; Zaire, 14. 

Wagner, Richard, 117. 

Warfield, David, 154, 155. 

Webb, Captain, 128. 

Webster, John, 130; The 
Duchess of Malfl, 130. 

Whitewashing Julia, 123. 

Whitman, Walt, 180, 182, 
213, 217; Crossing Brook- 
lyn Ferry, 182; Song of 
Myself, 182; Song of the 
Open Road, 217. 

Widower's Houses, 224. 

Wiehe, Charlotte, 10. 

Wife Without a Smile, The, 
213. 

Wild Duck, The, 147. 

Wilde, Oscar, 9; Lady Win- 
dermere's Fan, 89. 

Willard, Edward S., 157. 

Wills, William Gorman, 72. 

Winter, William, 8. 

Witching Hour, The, 16, 45, 
46, 63, 203, 230. 

Woman Killed with Kind- 
ness, A, 38. 

Woman's Last Word, A, 32. 

Woman's Way, A, 74. 

Wordsworth, William, 19. 

Wyndham, Sir Charles, 62, 
69. 

Yiddish drama, 11. 

Young, Mrs. Rida Johnson, 

155; Brown of Harvard, 

155. 

Zaire, 14. 
Zangwill, Israel, 41. 



THE THEATRE 

Gaj'ton Hamilton's Theory of the Theatre. $1.50 net. 

Edward Everett Hale, Jr.'s Dramatists of To-Day. Ros- 
tand, Hauptmann, Sudermann, Pinero, Shaw, Phillips, 
Maeterlinck. New Edition with Portraits. $1.50 net. 

George Witkowski's German Drama of the Nineteenth 
Century. $1.00 net. 

Calvin Thomas's Life and Works of Schiller. $1.50 net. 
W. Eraser Rae's Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. 
With portraits. 2 vols. $7.00. 

Jerome K. Jerome's On the Stage — and Off. Humorous 
articles on The Hero, The Stage Child, The Villain and other 
stage types. Illustrated. $1.00. 

Eva Lathbury's The Sinking Ship. A novel of London 
Theatrical Life. To-day. $1.50. 

SHAKESPEARE 

Bernhard ten Brink's Five Lectures on Shakespeare. 
The Poet and the Man, The Chronology of Shakepeare's 
Works, Shakespeare as Dramatist, Shakespeare as Comic Poet, 
Shakespeare as Tragic Writer. Index to works mentioned. 
Translated by Julia Franklin. $1.25 net. 

Stopford Brooke's On Ten Plays of Shakespeare. Mid- 
summer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Richard I, Richard 
II, Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Macbeth, Coriolanus, 
Winter's Talc, The Tempest. $2.25 net. 

Stopford Brooke's On Ten Further Plays of Shakes- 
peare. Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Julius 
Caesar, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Othello, King John, 
King Lear, Henry IV (i, 2) ; Henry V. Probable price, $2.25 
net. (May.) 

John Mascficld's Shakespeare. (Home University Li- 
brary.) 50c. net. 

Charlton M. Lewis's The Genesis of Hamlet. $1.25 net. 

Felix E. Schelling's English Literature During the 
Lifeti.me of Shakespeare. $2.50 net. 

Henry Thcw. Stephenson's Shakespeare's London. Illus- 
trated. $2.00 net. 

Stephenson's The Eliz^vbetiian People.. Illustrated. 
$2.00 net. 

Poilaoc on net books 8% additional 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 

publishers new YORK 



PLAYS 

Richard Burton's Raiiab. A drama of the fall of Jericho 
(in verse.) Illustrated. $1.25 net. 

Beulah Marie Dix's Allison's Lad, The Hundreth Trick, 
The Weakest Link, The Snare and the Fowler, The Captain 
of the Gate, The Dark of the Dawn. One act Martial Inter- 
ludes. $1.35 net. 

Michael Field's Callirrhoe; Fair Rosamund. (Dramas 
in verse.) $1.25. 

Henrik Hertz's King Rene's Daughter. (A drama in 
verse.) $1.25. 

Kalidasa's Shakuntala. Translated by Prof. A. H. 
Edgren. $1.50. 

Lessing's Nathan The Wise. Translated by Ellen 
Frothingham. $1.50. 

Geo. Middleton's Embers, with The Failures, In His 
House, The Gargoyle, Madonna, The Man Masterful. $1.35 
net. 

George Middleton's Tradition. With On Bail, Waiting, 
Their Wife, Mothers, The Cheat of Pity. Another volume of 
one act plays of American Life. $1.35 net. 

Chas. Leonard Moore's The Banquet of Palacios. A 
comedy of South America. To-day. $1.00. 

Martin Schutze's Hero and Leander. A tragedy in verse, 
$1.25 net. 

Martin Schutze's Judith. A tragedy in verse $1.25 net. 

Margaret L. Woods' The Princess of Hanover. An his- 
torical tragedy in verse. $1.50. 

'***For a large number of plays in Foreign Languages, see 
the publishers' Foreign Language Catalog. 

PLAYS FOR YOUNG FOLKS 

Constance D'Arcy Mackay's Patriotic Plays and Page- 
ants, Pageant of Patriotism, Hawthorne Pageant. Parts of 
the first pageant can be given as one act plays. $1.35 net. 

C. D'A. Mackay's The House of the Heart with The 
Enchanted Garden, A Little Pilgrim's Progress, A Pageant of 
Hours, On Christmas Eve, The Elf Child, The Princess and 
the Pixies, etc. $1.10 net. 

C. D'A. Mackay's The Silver Thread and other Folk 
Plays, including The Forest Spring, Troll Magic, The Three 
Wishes, Siegfried, The Snow Witch, etc. $1.10 net. 

*** For a number of French and German plays for young 
folk, see also the publishers' Foreign Language Catalog. 
*Postage on net books 8% additional. 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 

34 West 33d Street NEW YORK 



By GEORGE MIDDLETON 

One Act Plays of American Life To-day 

Either volume, $1.35 net; by mail, $1.43 

EMBERS 

With The Failures, The Gargoyle, In His House, Madonna 
and The Man Masterful. 

These one-act plays are perfectly practical for clever amateurs and 
especially available for club discussion and reading. Each play 
is the epitome of a larger drama which is suggested in the back- 
ground. Embers shows the influence of an ideal on a life; The Failures 
portrays what love may become in weak characters. The Gargoyle shows 
the pathos and insincerity of tlie literary temperament. In His House 
and The Man Masterful are intimate studies of marriage. Madonna 
is a delicate picture of a girl's psychology on her wedding eve. 

Richard Burton in The Bellman: "Embers is a volume of sketches 
which show the trained hand of the expert and are, moreover, decidedly 
interestirtg for their psychological value." 

Prof, lyitliam Lyon Phelfs of Yale: "The plays are admirable; the 
conversations have the true style of human speech, and show first-rate 
economy of words, every syllable advancing tlie plot. The little dramas 
are full of cerebration, and 1 shall recommend them in my public 
lectures." i;* '"^ 

Chicago Record Herald: "AH arc clear concise, dynamic, suggesting 
drama rather than revealing it. the language simple, the structure ex- 
cellent, the characterization vivid." 

TRADITION 

With On Bail, Mothers, Waiting, Their Wife and The 
Cheat of Pity. 

A companion volume to the above. Tradition deals with the attempt 
of the dominant though kindly man of the family to crush the artistic 
ambitions of his wife and daughter through their economic dependence. 
On Bail is a remorseless picture of a social parasite and the eltect uj)on 
him and his family. Mothers shows the relation of a woman to her 
child and the demands of society upon her motherliness, while IVaiting 
is a tender portrayal of a long delayed marriage due to traditional feel- 
ings. Their Wife is an ironical comedy in the miasma of intrigue; 
The Cheat of Pity gives an intimate stuily of marriage and the relative 
claims of passion with pity and the habic of life. 

Clayton Hamilton in an extended notice in The Bookman: "All of 
these little pieces are admirable in technique: they are soundly con- 
structed and written in natural and lucid dialogue. . . . lie has sounded 
to the depths the souls of those eccentric and extraordinary women 
whom he has chosen to dc]>ict." 

New York Globe: "His gallery of contemporary portraits of women 
is complete. . . . The workmanship of the |)Iays is about as perfect as 
could De. . . . Women who want to understand themselves should take 
a look at Tradition. What they see there will be, on the whole, flatter- 
ing. In fact, the modern, inflependencc-seeking, own-thinking woman has 
not found a more sympathetic or understanding friend than the author." 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS NEW YORK 



SIX TH EDITION, ENLARGED AND WITH PORTRAITS 

HALE'S DRAMATISTS OF TO-DAY 

Rostand, Hauptmann, Sudermann, 
PiNERO, Shaw, Phillips, Maeterlinck 

By Prof. Edward Everett Hale, Jr., of Union College. 
With gilt top, $1.50 net; by mail, $1.60. 

Since this work first appeared in 1905, Maeterlinck's Sister 
Beatrice, The Blue Bird and Mary Magdalene, Rostand's 
Chantecler and Pinero's Mid-Channel and The Thunder- 
bolt — among the notable plays by some of Dr. Hale's drama- 
tists — have been acted here. Discussions of them are added 
to this new edition, as are considerations of Bernard Shaw's 
and Stephen Phillips' latest plays. The author's papers on 
Hauptmann and Sudermann, with slight additions, with his 
"Note on Standards of Criticism," "Our Idea of Tragedy," 
and an appendix of all the plays of each author, with dates of 
their first performance or publication, complete the volume. 

Bookina7t : "He writes in a pleasant, free-and-easy way. . . . He 
accepts things chiefly at their face value, but he describes them so ac- 
curately and agreeably that he recalls vividly to mind the plays we 
have seen and the pleasure we have found in them." 

New York Evening Post : " It is not often nowadays that a theatrical 
b'lOk can be met with so free from gush and mere eulogy, or so weighted 
by common sense ... an excellent chronological appendix and full 
index . . . uncommonly useful for reference." 

Dial : " Noteworthy example of literary criticism in one of the most 
interesting of literary fields. . . . Provides a varied menu of the 
most interesting character. . . . Prof. Hale establishes confidential 
relations with the reader from the start. . . . Very definite opinions, 
clearly reasoned and amply fortified by example. . . . Well worth 
reading a second time." 

New York Tribune: " Both instructive and entertaining." 

Brooklyn Eagle: "A dramatic critic who is not just 'busting' him- 
self with Titanic intellectualities, but who is a readable dramatic critic. 
. . . Mr. Hale is a modest and sensible, as well as an acute and sound 
critic. . . . Most people will be surprised and delighted with Mr. 
Hale's simplicity, perspicuity and ingenuousness." 

The Theatre: "A pleasing lightness of touch. . . . Very read- 
able book." 



HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS NEW YORK 



BEULAH MARIE DIX'S 

ALLISON'S LAD AND OTHER MARTIAL 
INTERLUDES 

By the co-author of the play, "The Road to Yesterday," and 
author of the novels, "The Making of Christopher Ferring- 
ham," "Blount of Breckenlow," etc. T2mo. $1.35 net; by 
mail, $1.45. 

Allison's Lad, The Hundredth Trick, The Weakest Link, 
The Snare and the Fowler, The Captain of the Gate, The 
Dark of the Dawn. 

These one-act plays, despite their impressiveness, are per- 
fectly practicable for performance by clever amateurs ; at the 
same time they make decidedly interesting reading. 

Six stirring war episodes. Five of them occur at night, 
and most of them in the dread pause before some mighty 
conflict. Three are placed in Cromwellian days (two in Ire- 
land and one in England), one is at the close of the French 
Revolution, another at the time of the Hundred Years' War, 
and the last during the Thirty Years' War. The author has 
most ingeniously managed to give the feeling of big events, 
though employing but few players. The emotional grip is 
strong, even tragic. 

Courage, vengeance, devotion, and tenderness to the weak, 
are among the emotions effectively displayed. 

" The technical mastery of Miss Dix is great, but her spiritual mastery 
is greater. For this book lives in memory, and the spirit of its 
teachings is. in a most intimate sense, the spirit of its teacher. . . . 
Noble passion holding the balance between life and death is tlie motif 
sharply outlined and vigorously portrayed. In each interlude the author 
has seized upon a vital situation and has massed all her forces so as 
to enhance its significance." — Boston Transcrij't. (Entire notice c.i ap- 
plication to the publishers.) 

" Hiehly dramatic episodes, treated with skill and art ... a high 
pitch ol emotion." — New York Sun. 

"Complete and intense tragedies well plotted and well sustained, in 
dignified dialogue of persons of the drama distinctly diiTerentiatcd." — 
Hartford Courant. 

" It is a pleasure to say, without reservation, that the half dozen 
plays before us are finely true, strong, telling examples of dramatic 
art. . . . Sure to find their way speedily to the stage, justifying 
themselves there, even as they justify themselves at a reading as pieces 
of literature." — The Bellman. 



HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS NEW YORK 



TWO POETIC DRAMAS 

By MARTIN SCHUTZE 

JUDITH 

$1.25 net ; by mail $1.33, 

" Mr. Schutze has given us a new Holofernes, and in doing- this he has 
very greatly intensified the tragic situation. ... A well-developed tragical 
motif . . . that wonderful moment of climax. . . . The tragic integrity of 
the character of Judtiv is maintained. . . . The details of the drama are well 
carried out. . . . Mr. Schutze has not only been able to change traditional 
elements in the old story and yet render his version strong and convincing, 
but he has also given us a memorable addition to the old Judith legend." 
— Boston Transcript. 

"Among the best modern achievements. . . . Developed with e.xtra- 
ordinary power, both in the structure of the drama and in the verse, rich in 
beautiful imagery and in the power and dignity which the theme and the 
time demand. The author has shown a wonderful mastery of his materials 
and has succeeded admirably in mailing his characters live against the back- 
ground of the Judean hills." — Philadelphia Ledger. 

"Well within the unities and purposes of true tragedy, . . . an atmos- 
phere at once classic and modern." — Chicago Tribune. 

"A picture is given of the religious austerity of the Jews, and much is 
made of their national jealousy. Holofernes is a man of princely character. 
. . . This devotion of Judith to the human excellence which she discerned in 
Holofernes gives an unexpected turn to the narrative and tits it better for 
modern interpretation." — Springfield Republican. 

" A poetic psychological study that at worst is interesting and at best is 
keenly dramatic. ... In the multitudinous cast there are several excellent 
bits for good actors. . . . Plenty of characters and telling situations."— A^^a/ 
York Dramatic Mirror. 

HERO AND LEANDER 

$1.25 net ; by mail $1.33. 

" Perhaps the fullest and strongest drama that has ever been written 
about these lovers." — Chicago Record-Herald. 

"The consecration of Hero in the Temple of Venus, the apparition of 
Leander, his encounter with the temple guards, the episodes attending Hero's 
surrender, and the storm with its tragic outcome are all valuable theatrical 
incidents . . . a capable, dignified, and interesting composition which would 
be a credit to any theatre producing it." — Nation. 

"Vivid scenes. . . . The death of Hero is an opportunity seized by the 
author for more than usually effective lines; and the closing scene sustains 
well the tragic distinction of the climax." — Hartford Courant. 

" Unusual strength of construction and poetic expression." — Pro7<idence 
Journal. 

"Here is, indeed, a beautiful talent of the greatest promise, a soaring 
fancy, poesy of thought and imagination as well as of form, and sound classic 
scholarship." — Independent. 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS NEW YORK 

f OVERi 



THE HOME BOOK OF VERSE 

American and English (.1580-1912) 
Compiled by Burton E. Stevenson. Collects the best short 
poetry of the English language — not only the poetry every- 
body says is good, but also the verses that everybody 
reads. (3742 pages; India paper, r vol., 8vo, complete au- 
thor, title and tirst line indices, $7.50 net ; carriage 40 cents 
extra.) 

The most comprehensive and representative collection of 
American and English poetry ever published, including 
3,120 unabridged poems froin some 1,100 authors. 

It brings together in one volume the best short poetry 
of the English language from the time of Spencer, with 
especial attention to American verse. 

The copj'right deadline has been passed, and some three 
hundred recent authors are included, very few of whom 
appear in any other general anthology, such as Lionel 
Johnson, Xoyes, Housman, Mrs. Meynell, Yeats, Dobson, 
Lang, Watson, Wilde, Francis Thompson, Gilder, Le 
Gallienne, Van Dyke, Woodberry, Riley, etc., etc. 

The poems as arranged by subject, and the classifica- 
tion is unusually close and searching. Some of the most 
comprehensive sections are: Children's rhymes (300 
pages) ; love poems (800 pages) : nature poetry (400 
pages); humorous verse (500 pages); patriotic and histor- 
ical poems (600 pages); reflective and descriptive poetry 
(400 pages). No other collection contains so many popu- 
lar favorites and fugitive verses. 

DELIGHTFUL POCKET ANTHOLOGIES 

The following books are uniform, with full gilt flexible covers and 
pictured cover lir.iiigs. i6mo. Each, cloth, $1.50; leather, $2.50. 

THE OPEN KOAD 



THE GARLAND OF CHILDHOOD 

A little book for all lovers of 
children. Compiled by Percy 
Withers. 

THE VISTA or ENGUSH VERSE 

r"ompll'-rl t>y Hinry S. IMn- 
rr)ast. Kr.jm Spencer to Klp- 
llnc. 

LETTERS THAT LIVE 

Compll»-il by I.aura. K. Lock- 
wood and Amy K. Kelly. Some 
150 letters. 



POEMS FOR TRAVELLERS 

(About "The (•ontlnent.") 
Compiled by MI»h Mary U. J. 
DuBols. 



A little book for wayfarers. 
Compiled by E. V. Lucas. 

THE FRIENDLY TOWN 

A llttif tiook fir th"^ urbane, 
compiled by E. V. Lucas. 

THE POETIC OLD-WORLD 

(•.imiiil.-<l l)y Miss L. H. 
Humphrey. Covers Europe, Ib- 
cludlnK .'^palii, IJi'ltjluin and the 
JJritiHh Isl<-a. 

THE POETIC NEW-WORLD 

C<)inpll>'il hy MiMH Huiiiplirey. 



HENRY H O L 1 AND COMPANY 

34 WEST 33ru street NEW YORK 



This book IS 13^>^"" 



•as 



^ECO 10 URl 

JUL 2 1986 

JUN 5^986 



Form L9- 



JV)L 



t a 



»w 



^r 



3 1158 00239 7080 



UC SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY 

" 'i'||i"|{!||"'| '!' 11!' 11 "I 'V iri'"" '" I" ir 



iiliJinil II' l'ii|i HI i:|i '|i|i|| I (III liilil 

AA 000 409 577 



m 



, «■' '■»■.- 



^ I 












mmm'